http://www.facebook.com/ScienceReason ... Hubblecast 35: The Stuff Of Legend.
Gearing up for the 20th anniversary of the legendary space observatory, Dr. J takes a look at the story of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Born of an ambitious idea, it took decades for Hubble to become a reality. The project was complex and often faced huge setbacks but, ultimately, the powerful telescope took to the skies aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on 24 April 1990.
Look back through the decades with this the first of two special Hubble 20th anniversary Hubblecasts. And stay tuned for the next anniversary Hubblecast.
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Hubble is neither the first telescope in space, nor will it be the last, but it is the only one that can be serviced by astronauts and this unique, intimate relationship between human and machine, combined with the observatory's storied history makes Hubble the stuff of legend. This year, we celebrate 20 years of Hubble in orbit.
Our fascination with the starry skies can be traced back to the earliest human civilisations. In antiquity, the Greeks and Romans were so taken with the heavens that they lent the names of their gods to the planets of the Solar System. Much later, our fascination with the skies was fuelled by the invention of the telescope and, much later still, this led to the development of space telescopes.
In the early 20th century, scientists began to seriously think of the possibility of telescopes in space. In 1923 Hermann Oberth, who was of Romanian and German descent, and is widely considered to be the father of space telescopes, wrote a book, 'Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen', putting the idea into print for the first time.
After World War II, technology that was developed for defence was being considered for space exploration and, in 1946, the American astronomer Lyman Spitzer wrote a paper extolling the advantages of a space telescope. One of those advantages is, of course, to be free of the blurring influence of the Earths atmosphere.
It wasnt until the late 1960s that Spitzers dream started to become a reality in the form of the Large Space Telescope, Hubbles first given name. But the dream -- what seemed like a natural follow-on to the success of previous orbiting observatories and the US Apollo missions -- was to suffer a lengthy interruption.
The 1970s were a decade of challenges for the US government, which oversees NASAs budget. The Vietnam war continued through the middle of the decade and, on top of that, a crippling oil crisis had grave effects on the economy.
Spitzer, who was a distinguished scientist and motivated lobbyist, campaigned tirelessly for his dream telescope in the 1970s, but budget issues continued to hamper him and his fellow space telescope visionaries. Finally, an idea to collaborate internationally brought the dream one step closer to reality.
The European Space Agency stepped in the late 1970s as another 'parent' to the troubled telescope, providing not only funding, but people power and literal power in the form of the solar cells -- the lifeblood of this solar-powered observatory. ESA also built one of the observatorys first generation instruments, the Faint Object Camera (FOC).
In 1983, the Large Space Telescope was christened the Hubble Space Telescope after the celebrated astronomer Edwin P. Hubble. But even with proper funding and an official name, the project still faced many uphill battles. Contractors who were building the mirror and the spacecraft were going over budget and missing deadlines.
This pushed the launch date further and further back and, finally, all seemed to be ready in early 1986 for an autumn departure. Then, tragically, the seven-member crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger was lost in an explosion just after launch on the 28th of January 1986.
After the shocking Challenger disaster NASA halted all shuttle missions from 1986 through the fall of 1988 until a lengthy review could be conducted and astronaut safety assured. During the grounding of the shuttle programme, engineers continued to work on Hubble in its temporary home -- a cleanroom.
Travelling through time and space with our host Doctor J a.k.a. Dr. Joe Liske ...
Hubblecast features news and Images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
Dr. J is the young enthusiastic host of the Hubblecast. He is a German astronomer at the European Organization for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO). His scientific interests are in cosmology, particularly on galaxy evolution and quasars. Dr. J's real name is Joe Liske and he has a PhD in astronomy.