NASA announced Tuesday that it would send a final repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, tentatively in 2008, to extend the life of the orbiting observatory to at least 2013. Hubble's senior project scientist discusses the history and future of the telescope.
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The $2 billion Hubble telescope vaulted into space aboard the Shuttle Discovery in 1990, and the spectacular images it's beamed back to Earth ever since have captured the public imagination: enabling the earthbound to observe the universe as it was 12 billion years ago; peering into black holes at the center of galaxies; and observing the oldest burned-out stars in the Milky Way, colliding galaxies and roiling caverns of dust and gas.
Today's NASA announcement will extend the Hubble's life by several years. To discuss the history and future of the space telescope, we are joined by David Leckrone, Hubble senior project scientist.
DAVID LECKRONE, Hubble Senior Project Scientist:
So what is it about the Hubble telescope which, as I described, has captured the public's imagination all these years?
Well, I think there are many reasons, but perhaps the simplest is that it's given the first clear view to humankind of what the universe really looks like.
I think we're all very curious about where we've come from and where we're going. We're all attracted to the night sky, and what's up there, and what's beyond the next star. I think that at heart we're all Trekkies, and although we can't literally fly across the universe in a Starship Enterprise, the Hubble can take us across the universe as a vicarious trip.
And I think ultimately, though, Hubble has just inspired people from all walks of life. And I think it also makes Americans very proud, that this is something positive that we have accomplished as a people.