The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is a joint creation of NASA, ESA, hundreds of industrial companies, government and university groups, and thousands of engineers and scientists. Since April 1990, when it was released into orbit from Discoveryâ€™s payload bay, Hubble has returned scientific data and stunning images of stars, nebulae, and distant galaxies.
The construction of the space telescope began in the 1980s, when the optics company Perkin-Elmer initiated the work on Hubbleâ€™s primary light-collecting mirror. The Hubble Space Telescope was completed in 1985, but was not deployed in Earth’s orbit for another five years.
In 1983, the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) was founded and it assumed from NASA the science management of the Hubble Space Telescope. STScI is located at Johns Hopkins University.
In its initial configuration, Hubble carried the Wide Field and Planetary Camera (WF/PC), the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph (GHRS), the Faint Object Camera (FOC), and the Faint Object Spectrograph (FOS). It was soon to be discovered that the primary mirror had a flaw, and that the space telescope suffered from blurry vision.
The Hubble Servicing Mission 1 installed a corrective optics package, COSTAR, and replaced the original WF/PC with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. Hubble Servicing Mission 2 replaced the GHRS and FOS with the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS). Servicing Mission 3A replaced all six gyroscopes, a Fine Guidance Sensor, and the onboard computer. Servicing Mission 3B saw the installation of the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), which replaced the FOC, and the revival of NICMOS through the installation of a new cooling system.
All this, and the history of astronomic discoveries beginning with Galileo Galilei in 1609 and continued by William Herschel, William Huggins, George Ellery Hale, and Edwin Hubble, are presented in Hubble â€“ Imaging Space And Time, a book authored by David DeVorkin and Robert W. Smith. The book is replete with spectacular images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. Images of Carina Nebula, Eagle Nebula, Orion Nebula, and Swan Nebula, just to name a few, are a celebration of color and convey the majestic beauty of the Cosmos.
David DeVorkin is curator of the history of astronomy and the space sciences at the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution. Among other books he has authored are Beyond Earth: Mapping the Universe and The Hubble Space Telescope: Imaging the Universe.
Robert W. Smith is a professor of history and Director of the Science, Technology and Society Program at the University of Alberta. He is also the author of The Space Telescope: A Study of NASA, Science, Technology and Politics, The Hubble Space Telescope: Imaging the Universe, and The Expanding Universe.