BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – It’s called the most significant advance in astronomy since Galileo’s telescope, and this week the Hubble Space Telescope is turning 25.
All of the working scientific instruments on board Hubble today were made in Colorado. And this week NASA is celebrating 25 years of space exploration with Hubble and even bringing scientists who worked on the project in Colorado to celebrate in the nation’s capital this Friday.
From the Cat’s Eye Nebula to the Sombrero Galaxy, Hubble’s portfolio of discoveries is long and groundbreaking.
“We really changed history with Hubble,” said John Troeltzsch at Ball Aerospace in Boulder.
But changing history didn’t come easy. Troeltzsch has worked on the project since its inception. He still has the pin given to them before launch in 1990, which says “In expectation of the unexpected.”
“The funny thing is, once we got up and found out it didn’t work we realized the unexpected had happened,” Troeltzsch said.
It turned out Hubble’s primary mirror was too flat. Luckily the telescope was designed for astronaut repair.
“You can see how they could use these handles to open the doors,” Troeltzsch said.
In 1993 the flaw was fixed and Hubble flooded NASA with new pictures of dying stars, new universes, and galaxies far, far way.
“Once it’s up there it just opens the universe to all of us,” Troeltzsch said.
Troeltzsch said the Hubble deep field is perhaps the most remarkable. It put the telescope into seeming darkness and revealed more than 5,000 new galaxies.
“It pretty much proved that it could look back in time and see the very beginning of our universe.”
NASA believes the Hubble has got a good five years left before a replacement is needed. As Hubble’s clock ticks, it’s replacement, the James Webb Space Telescope, is looking to launch in 2018. Ball Aerospace in Boulder is also behind its mirrors. Troeltzsch said its telescope is bigger and better, taking our view of the universe that much further.
“James Webb will be able to really uncover what was going on in the universe shortly after the big bang.”
NASA is hoping that Hubble and the James Webb Space Telescope will overlap a few years before Hubble is taken out of orbit.