"The Hubble Space Telescope, the most productive scientific instrument of all time."
Neil deGrasse Tyson, Space Chronicles
Max Hunter led the team at Lockheed Missiles & Space Company that won the NASA contract to build Hubble and steered the project through its four year design phase as program manager.2 Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a space telescope that was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990 and remains in operation. today.
It is one of NASA's most successful and long-lasting science missions. It has beamed hundreds of thousands of images back to Earth, shedding light on many of the great mysteries of astronomy. Its gaze has helped determine the age of the universe, the identity of quasars, and the existence of dark energy,
Designing a high-precision telescope capable of enduring both the rigors of launch and the stresses of regular operations in the hostile environment of space presented the engineers at NASA and Lockheed unique challenges. The LST would be a 3-meter reflecting telescope designed for a long operational lifetime with occasional visit by astronauts to carry out maintenance and upgrades.
“Every time we have looked into the universe in a new frequency spectrum, or with improved instruments, we have discovered new and starling objects or events. We need better to understand those tings we have already discovered. This task alone will fully justify a better viewing instrument. But, among astronomers, it is almost universally believed that it will be the unexpected that will be the most spectacular product of the Large Space Telescope.” - Max Hunter3
Although not the first space telescope, Hubble is one of the largest and most versatile, and is well known as both a vital research tool and a public relations boon for astronomy. The HST is named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble, and is one of NASA's Great Observatories, along with the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope.
With a 2.4-meter (7.9 ft) mirror, Hubble's four main instruments observe in the near ultraviolet, visible and near infrared spectra. Hubble's orbit outside the distortion of Earth's atmosphere allows it to take extremely high-resolution images, with substantially lower background light than ground-based telescopes. Hubble has recorded some of the most detailed visible-light images ever, allowing a deep view into space and time. Many Hubble observations have led to breakthroughs in astrophysics, such as accurately determining the rate of expansion of the universe.
The HST was built by the United States space agency NASA, with contributions from the European Space Agency. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STSI) selects Hubble's targets and processes the resulting data, while the Goddard Space Flight Center controls the spacecraft.
Hubble is the only telescope designed to be serviced in space by astronauts. After launch by Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990, four subsequent Space Shuttle missions repaired, upgraded, and replaced systems on the telescope. A fifth mission was canceled on safety grounds following the Columbia disaster (2003). However, after spirited public discussion, NASA administrator Mike Griffin approved one final servicing mission, completed in 2009. The telescope is operating as of 2016, and could last until 2030–2040.
1. Astronomer-astronaut John Grunsfeld “Large Space Telescope,” February 1975
(above) Max Hunter visits Hubble in clean room as it awaits deployment.
Artist's help bring the engineers' and project managers' concept into a form understandable by the public. Above image is from an early Lockheed brochure on the LST.
(above) This is the "structural dynamics test vehicle" on site at Lockheed Missiles & Space Company.
This later interpretation was much closer to the mark.
NASA had a year-long birthday party for Hubble in 2015 and has created an archived website.