Happy Birthday, Hubble!


cat eye nebula

So where were you nineteen years ago today? That is when the Hubble Space Telescope arrived in space. After a very rocky start, it is still going, wowing scientists and the masses alike – and getting ready for it’s final makeover. STS-125 – the final Hubble Repair Mission – is set to launch on May 12.

Hubble was not the first space telescope but it is by far the most sophisticated, providing earthlings with unprecedented detail and spectacular views of their universe. The images sent back by Hubble have not only advanced the cause of space research, their haunting, spectacular beauty has boosted the popularity of astronomy in general.In 1946, astrophysicist Lyman Spitzer spelled out the advantages such an observatory had over its earthbound counterparts: Being free of atmospheric interference, a space telescope is able to bring distant objects such as stars into much sharper focus. Additionally, the absence of an atmosphere makes it possible for a telescope to observe unrestricted infrared and ultraviolet light.

via April 24, 1990: Hubble Becomes Big Eye Above Sky.


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10 Responses to “Happy Birthday, Hubble!”

  1. jamesohearn Says:

    Imagine how much more successful the mission would have been if the darn thing hadn’t been busted 75% of the time.

    • Brian In NYC Says:


    • smcnally Says:

      It’s “funny,” but going into orbit with faulty optics meant shuttle flights for repair missions, in-orbit rendezvous, robotic arms, improved instrumentation – All of these were amazing events.

      Because it was “busted” and needed fixing, the Hubble’s originally intended life and capabilities has been extended. And we’ve had a 19-year show so far.

      Welcome aboard, Miles.

      • Miles O'Brien Says:

        Hubble was designed from the ground up with the idea that it would be serviced by shuttle crews. Of course, the spherical aberration raised the stakes for that first repair mission in 1993 significantly – to say the least.

  2. Miles O'Brien Says:

    Let’s see – taking us to the very edge of the universe, proving the existence of black holes, determining the age of the universe with more precision, showing us planets under construction, the birth of stars, imaging brown dwarfs, capturing the first direct look at Pluto, the first direct image of a planet orbiting another star and the amazing images of a smashed comet auguring into Jupiter are just some of the Hubble accomplishments that come to mind.

    So even if your premise (that it is broken 75% of the time) were true (and it is not), this device is a scientific wonder that has written – and then re-written – the text books.

    • Lewis DVorkin Says:

      Welcome to True/Slant. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronomer. I studied the stars. I built planetary models. I loved it all. I, too, marvel at Hubble. I truly look forward to following all that you know about space, science and so much more.

      • Miles O'Brien Says:

        Thanks Lewis! Good to be here. Very excited to be a part of T/S.

      • Brian In NYC Says:

        Yes, welcome aboard Miles, good to see another space junkie around here. My Dad was a sci-fi junkie, some of the fondest memories of my childhood were being allowed to stay up and watch Star Trek with him on the big color set, and hours spent in the backyard with my telescope, my father holding start charts explaining to me what I was looking at.

        There is no way around the fact that Hubble got off to a rocky start, but considering the fact that long after it’s intended service life has expired it is still up there showing us the wonders of our universe more than make up for it’s shaky start!

  3. jamesohearn Says:

    So even if your premise (that it is broken 75% of the time) were true (and it is not), this device is a scientific wonder that has written – and then re-written – the text books.

    Thanks for that, Miles.

    You’re right. It wasn’t down 75% of the time. That was a gross exaggeration. Perhaps 74%? 73%?

    Just kidding.

    But you have to admit, the Hubble’s been like Samuel L. Jackson in the movie Unbreakable – as in “anything but”.

    Still, I never cast aspersions on what the Hubble has accomplished at all. But I remember where I was 19 years ago, and I remember all the news on the billions of dollars spent on a machine made half blind by a microscopic speck of paint.

    Today it’s a given that the Hubble was a great investment. A decade and a half ago, that verdict was very much in question.

    Hence a little bit of mischievous snark.

  4. Miles O'Brien Says:

    I guess I can relate to Hubble as I have had some rocky starts myself. Hubble, in many respects reflects some of our best and worst traits. Do you remember the “Loser’s Bar” in “Naked Gun 21/2”? The framed photos on the wall depicted the Titanic, the Hindenburg, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the Ford Edsel, the DeLorean DMC-12 and the Hubble Space Telescope…

    Hubble has given us all a wild roller coaster ride that you really couldn’t make up. But the payoff has been worth the agita.

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