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Hubble Telescope’s Days Are Numbered

Hubble Telescope (Getty Images)

Conceived in the 1940’s, designed in the 1970’s, built in the 1980’s, it was in April of 1990 that the Hubble telescope was placed into orbit by the crew of the space shuttle Discovery. A major problem during its design was that the lenses were incorrectly calculated, so the first images were blurry. A repair mission three years later basically outfitted Hubble with glasses. It worked and since then Hubble has been sending back images of the universe ten times clearer than any telescope on earth ever delivered.

Astronauts have visited Hubble a total of five times for repairs and upgrades.

Hubble is about the size of a bus, it’s powered by the sun and orbits the earth once every 97 minutes. In its 23 years of orbiting the earth it’s traveled 3-billion miles.

Hubble has recorded a comet’s collision with Jupiter, provided a look at the surface of Pluto and shown views of distant galaxies that up until then scientists could only imagine. It provides so much information that in a month it would fill up the memory of an average home computer.

With the end of the space shuttle program there’s no way to periodically lift Hubble into a higher orbit. If nothing is done, it’ll fall back to earth in 2024. On its last service mission astronauts attached a ring to Hubble so that a robotic spacecraft could pull it back up, but the robot to do the job and the mission aren’t planned yet. NASA has about a decade to get it done.


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