25 Years Of Hubble

The incredible Hubble is 25 years old. The iconic images the space telescope has taken over the years have spread far and wide, much beyond just scientists and space enthusiasts.


Case in point–the picture above–the Eagle Nebula commonly known as the pillars of creation. Even if someone doesn’t know the name of that capture, chances are they can still identify the picture itself.

Hubble has been awing us with its photographs for quarter of a century. But most of us do not know or remember much of brouhaha surrounding its beginnings, that when it was put into orbit, it was labeled an expensive flop. Just weeks after the $2.8bn piece of machinery was launched, it was discovered to have an optical error in its main mirror which diminished its visual clarity.

Scientists realized that something was wrong as soon as the first images began to arrive at the Hubble headquarters. There were no super-sharp pictures everyone was expecting, the images were blurred.

Now, in a series of interviews for a documentary to be screened tonight on the National Geographic Channel, the scientists and engineers who shouldered the blame for the error have spoken about the humiliation that followed the launch of the Hubble telescope on 24 April 1990.

Charlie Pellerin, the head of astrophysics at the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) between 1983 and 1993, said, “I looked back on this and wondered how could I have been so stupid. It was leadership failure and I was leader of the team.”

After analyzing the fault, it was soon clear that the mistake could be fixed by correcting the optics. The repair was carried out by Shuttle servicing missions, and soon Hubble began producing the expected crystal-sharp images of planets, stars and galaxies. Today, Hubble is considered one of the greatest scientific successes in the history of space exploration and quite rightly so.

You can catch more of Hubble on the NGC

S.G. Basu is an aspiring potentate of a galaxy or two. She plots and plans with wondrous machines, cybernetic robots, time travelers and telekinetic adventurers, some of whom escape into the pages of her books. Once upon a previous life on planet Earth, S.G. Basu trained to be an engineer, and her interest in science and her love of engineering shows up time and again in her books.

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