Press Release

Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ Hubble Space Telescope marks ten years of astronomical discovery

By SpaceRef Editor
April 24, 2000
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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (HST), built and integrated at the Lockheed Martin Space Systems facility in Sunnyvale, was launched ten years ago aboard Space Shuttle Discovery, on April 24, 1990, ushering in a new golden age of astronomy. HST was released by the crew into Earth orbit the next day and the Universe hasn’t looked the same since.
 
"All of the past and present members of the HST team here at Goddard and in Sunnyvale feel enormous pride and satisfaction as we look back on our roles in building, testing, deploying, operating and servicing this magnificent observatory," said Jim Kelley, Lockheed Martin Space Systems program manager of HST Flight Systems and Servicing. "It really is not boasting to say we’ve all helped make history with our contributions to HST and its continuing legacy."
 
Even though initially impaired by a flaw in its main mirror (it was ground to the wrong shape causing its images to be blurred), Hubble’s position above the distortion of Earth’s atmosphere enabled it to begin making major discoveries even before astronauts repaired it in 1993. When corrective optics were installed during that dramatic servicing mission, the Universe suddenly snapped into sharp focus, followed by a flood of spectacular images and discoveries which have forever changed how we view the cosmos.
 
"Hubble’s rate of discovery is simply unprecedented for any single observatory," said Dr. Ed Weiler, Associate Administrator for Space Science, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC, who has been associated with the Hubble program since 1978. "But what may be even more important in the long term is what Hubble has given to just about everyone on Earth. Hubble’s spectacular images and discoveries of black holes, colliding galaxies and bizarre objects at the edge of the Universe have been brought into millions of homes by newspapers, television and the Internet."
 
Since its launch in April 1990, Hubble has provided scientific data and images of unprecedented resolution from which many new and exciting discoveries have been made. Even when reduced to raw numbers, the accomplishments of the 12.5-ton orbiting observatory are impressive:
 
* In its 10 years of surveying the heavens, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope   has made 271,000 observations and probed 13,670 celestial targets. * Hubble has whirled around Earth 58,400 times, racking up 1.5 billion   miles. That’s like flying from Earth to the sun 16 times (It’s 16   astronomical units, well past Saturn at 9.6 A.U. out towards Uranus   at 19.14 A.U.)
* The orbiting observatory’s observations have amounted to 3.5 terabytes   of data.
* Each day the telescope generates enough data — 3 to 5 gigabytes í to   fill a typical home computer.
* Hubble’s archive delivers between 10 and 15 gigabytes of data a day to   astronomers all over the world.
* Astronomers have published 2,651 scientific papers on Hubble results.
 
"Not since Galileo aimed a small 30-power telescope into the night sky in 1609 has humanity’s vision of the universe been so revolutionized in such a short time span by a single instrument," said Dr. David Leckrone, Hubble Project Scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. "The Hubble Space Telescope has seen farther and clearer than any visible- light telescope before it, and has revolutionized the science of astronomy. Among its many achievements, Hubble has shown us the details of starbirth, material trapped around a black hole, planetary systems forming around other stars, and galaxies at the edge of space and time. I think it has already earned a place as one of the wonders of the modern world."
 
Hubble’s photographic hall of fame includes the deepest view ever of the Universe in visible light; a peek into the environs of supermassive galactic black holes; the majestic birth of stars in monstrous stellar clouds; extraordinary arcs, shells, and ribbons of glowing gas sculpted by the deaths of ordinary stars; mega-megaton blasts produced by the impact of a comet into the cloud tops of Jupiter and the surface of mysterious Pluto.
 
Hubble was conceived to tackle scientific goals that could be accomplished only by an observatory in space. It’s mission is to spend 20 years probing the farthest and faintest reaches of the cosmos. Crucial to fulfilling this objective is a series of on-orbit servicing missions by Space Shuttle Astronauts. The First Servicing Mission took place in December 1993 and Second Servicing Mission was flown in February 1997. Last year, Servicing Mission 3A was performed. These missions extended Hubble’s scientific power with new instruments, modernized its systems with new technology, and performed critical maintenance and repairs of its optics, solar arrays, gyros and other components. As a result of these improvements, Hubble is a far more capable observatory than when it was launched in 1990. Future servicing missions to Hubble are planned for 2001 and 2003.
 
The space telescope is named after U.S. astronomer Edwin P. Hubble who, early in this century, discovered galaxies beyond our Milky Way and made the first rough measurements of the expansion rate of space. Now, after 70 years of debate and speculation, astronomy has come full circle: scientists using the Hubble Telescope have detected galaxies out to the visible horizon of the Universe, and have accurately pinned down the size, expansion rate and age of the Universe.
 
Hubble will be decommissioned in 2010, and replaced by the Next Generation Space Telescope. Having a much larger mirror, the NGST will pick up where Hubble left off by searching for the faint glimmer of light from the first stars ever born in the universe. Beyond NGST, ever larger and more advanced telescopes will search for earth-like extrasolar planets and evidence for life beyond our solar system.
 
Hubble Space Telescope is managed and operated by the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Greenbelt, MD, for the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD selects observing programs from numerous proposals and analyzes, archives, and disseminates incoming astronomical data. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency.
 
The Hubble Space Telescope was built and integrated at the Lockheed Martin Space Systems facility in Sunnyvale, CA. Since the 1990 launch, under contract to NASA, Space Systems and Lockheed Martin Technical Operations personnel in Sunnyvale and at GSFC have helped manage the day-to-day spacecraft operations of the telescope, and have provided extensive preparation and training for the telescope servicing missions.
 
Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Sunnyvale is a leading supplier of satellites and space systems to military, civil government and commercial communications organizations around the world. These spacecraft and systems have enhanced military and commercial communications; provided new and timely remote-sensing information; and furnished new data for thousands of scientists studying our planet and the universe.
 
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[NOTE: Images supporting this release are available at
http://lmms.external.lmco.com/photos/civil_space/hubble_space_tele_hst/hst.html]

SpaceRef staff editor.