In praise of … the Hubble telescope

Tuesday, May 19, 2009 - 06:14 in Astronomy & Space

If inanimate objects had personalities, the Hubble space telescope would be described as having the hide of a rhinoceros. The launch was delayed for several years by the Challenger disaster, and by the time it went up into the upper atmosphere it had cost over six times its original estimate. Within weeks of its launch, it was found to have a flaw in its super-finely ground mirror. This was only 2.3 micrometres out at the edges, but enough for the ambitious project to be listed alongside the Titanic, the Hindenburg and other spectacular technological failures. The mirror could not be replaced in space, but nor could the telescope be brought back. So it needed the telescopic equivalent of specs – two mirrors placed in the light path – to correct the original fault. When it is released back into orbit on Thursday it will have been repaired five times in...

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