A brief History of the Hubble Space Telescope

While the Hubble telescope was launched in 1990, the idea behind it was launched much earlier. In 1946, a professor and researcher from Yale, Lyman Spitzer came up with the idea. He pointed out that even the best telescopes on earth had to deal with atmospheric interference, whereas a telescope in space would be able to reveal much more, and do so, much more clearly.

Later, in 1966, Spitzer was asked to head a committee to investigate the possibilities and feasibility of such a telescope. It was determined that the telescope would make a great contribution to the study of the stars, galaxies, and the universe in general.

Of course in order to get the telescope airborne, NASA was needed, and this would take further study to determine if it was feasible. In 1971, it was decided that the study would go forward, however, the cost of between $400 and $500 million was a major obstacle, and would need federal funding. In 1975, the proposal was sent to the House Appropriations Committee where it was denied.

In order to reduce the cost of the project and make it more acceptable, NASA looked to international cooperation. What was then the European Space Research Organization, and is now the European Space Agency, was invited to join the effort. A reduction in the size of the mirror was proposed, the cost was reduced to $200 million, and in 1977, funding was approved.

Once the project was approved, the Perkin-Elmer Corporation was put in charge of the mirror and opticals, and Lockheed Missiles and Space Company were to construct the craft. The Europeans would supply the solar array that is used to power the Hubble. In 1983, it was decided to name it the Hubble after noted astronomer Edwin P. Hubble.

While the Hubble was originally planned for launch in 1986, the tragedy of the Challenger, in January of 1986, put the program on hold for several more years. On April 24, 1990, the telescope was finally launched aboard the Discovery.

Unfortunately, less than clear pictures from the telescope were an immediate indication that something was wrong. It was determined that the edges of the mirror were ground too flat and in 1993, a crew was sent to remedy the problem. A new camera was installed, gyroscopes and solar arrays replaced in this historic effort which proved to be successful. Since then, servicing missions have been completed in 1997, 1999, and 2002. On May 11, 2009, the final servicing mission was initiated, when Atlantis and its seven man crew were launched from the Kennedy Space Center. It is predicted that, because of the extent of the 2009 servicing, which included nearly a total rehab, it should be good to go until at least 2013.

Okolski, Gabriel. “A Brief History of the Hubble Space Telescope.” History Home. Web. 14 Feb. 2011. http://history.nasa.gov/hubble/index.html