Biography of a space telescope: Voices of Hubble
J Thoendell stashed this in Space
When the Hubble Space Telescope blasted into space on 24 April 1990, it promised astronomers an unprecedented view of the Universe, free from the blurring effects of Earth's atmosphere.
But Hubble's quarter-century in orbit has never gone according to plan. The telescope — a joint venture between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) — faced a crippling flaw after launch that required astronauts to fly up and fix it. Later, problems with Hubble and NASA's shuttle programme left the telescope's future in jeopardy.
Through it all, Hubble emerged as the world's foremost astronomical observatory. Conceived by astronomer Lyman Spitzer in the 1940s, the telescope has led to fundamental discoveries, revealing for instance that the furthest reaches of the Universe are full of galaxies and that dark energy is pushing the cosmos apart at an ever faster rate. Its stunning images have transformed scientific understanding of the Universe and become wildly popular.
Here, Nature tells the story of Hubble through the words of some of its key players, beginning in 1972. At that time, the space telescope was little more than a set of engineering drawings.