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Paper: From Failure to Symbol of Astronomical Discovery: The Inspiring Story of the Hubble Space Telescope
Volume: 441, The Inspiration of Astronomical Phenomena VI
Page: 443
Authors: Nota, A.
Abstract: Hubble was launched in 1990, with great expectations of scientific breakthroughs: determining the distance scale of the universe, detecting planets around stars other than the Sun. The enthusiasm that accompanied a very successful launch was quickly dampened by the realization that something was seriously wrong with the telescope. While the pictures were clearer than those of ground-based telescopes, they were not the pristine images promised. Hubble's mirror had a flaw. It was affected by “spherical aberration”. Hubble's images were permanently out of focus. This is where the inspiring part of the story starts: scientists and engineers, in a coordinated effort across continents, pulled together to design the solution. The Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR) was installed three years later by a brave crew of astronauts who showed to the world that performing complex tasks in space is possible, and paved the way to the construction of the International Space Station. The first images from Hubble with the new optics were superb. The telescope was all that had been promised and more, and changed the way we think of the universe. Designed to be repaired in space, Hubble has been refurbished four additional times. Every time, critical subsystems such as gyros and batteries are replaced, and its scientific instrument complement is upgraded. The last mission to Hubble (SM4) has been successfully completed in May 2009. Two new instruments have been installed, two existing instruments have been repaired in space, and new scientific results are pouring in. Hubble will continue pushing the boundaries of our knowledge of the universe for years to come. But, more importantly, Hubble has showed that partnership, ingenuity and determination can transform the most devastating failure in a long lasting success.
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