Hubble Telescope’s Ongoing Observations of the Cosmos, 30 Years After Its First Repair Mission

In December 1993, the Hubble Space Telescope underwent a critical repair mission after it was discovered that its optics were faulty. The telescope, which was launched in 1990, suffered from spherical aberration, meaning that the light rays did not converge at the same focal point. This affected the clarity and quality of the telescope’s observations. However, a team of astronauts embarked on the STS-61 mission to fix the issues and restore Hubble’s full potential.

The repair plan involved replacing the Wide Field and Planetary Camera with the corrected WF/PC2 and installing the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR) box to correct the light for three axial instruments. During a series of spacewalks, the astronauts successfully replaced gyroscopes, electrical control units, fuse plugs, and solar panels. They also installed the COSTAR and performed other critical repairs.

After the repairs were completed, Hubble’s images showed a significant improvement in clarity and precision. The telescope went on to make groundbreaking discoveries, including proving the existence of black holes, discovering dark energy, and imaging objects in our solar system and beyond. It also made the first discovery of an atmosphere around an exoplanet and captured deep field images of galaxies at the very edge of the observable universe.

Since its final servicing mission in 2009, Hubble has continued to operate and make important observations. It has played an important role alongside the James Webb Space Telescope in advancing our understanding of the cosmos. However, recent gyroscope issues have caused Hubble to enter safe mode multiple times. NASA is working to recover its operational capability and has proposed a new servicing and reboost mission to extend Hubble’s lifespan.

The Polaris 2 mission, led by Jared Isaacman and the Polaris Program, aims to dock a SpaceX Crew Dragon to Hubble and perform necessary repairs and reboosting. This mission would allow Hubble to continue operating for another 10-15 years. The proposal highlights the ongoing importance and scientific value of the veteran telescope.

As we celebrate 30 years since the first repair mission, Hubble’s legacy and contributions to astronomy are undeniable. It has revolutionized our understanding of the universe and paved the way for future space observatories. Despite its age and occasional setbacks, Hubble remains a powerful tool for exploration and discovery, and its potential for new breakthroughs in the coming years is still immense.