A Tribute To The Hubble Telescope

The Hubble Telescope, that great invention of man, is close to its end. Heralded for almost 20 years for vastly increasing our knowledge of an even vaster universe, the Telescope’s replacement is already in production. The substitute, the Webb Space Telescope, is on schedule for a 2013 launch. Right now, the Space Shuttle Atlantis is on a mission to repair Hubble for the last time.

Just in case you’re not completely familiar with the Telescope, check out its website. You can learn all about it and see hundreds of photos that its taken over the years. They are spectacular, even breath-taking, in their beauty and detail. They give us glimpses of the universe like nothing else ever has. You can download the photos for free and even use them for wall paper and screen savers on your computer. Very, very cool.

Now that its time is almost over, what will become of this grand creation of humans? Like old people and canines, its equipment will eventually fail and decay will take it in the end. Orbital decay, that is. Hubble orbits the earth and a decaying orbit will one day cause it to enter the earth’s atmosphere where most of it will burn away.

Most, but not all. Part of Hubble will survive to crash onto the earth, with a 1 in 700 chance of causing a human fatality. Since we’re quite a bit smaller, there’s probably a lesser chance of a canine getting beaned. But, I’ll still be spending a lot of time looking skyward starting in 2010.

You’d think that NASA would figure out a way to rescue the much-celebrated Telescope and put it in the Smithsonian or someplace like that. After all, it contributed way more to human understanding of the cosmos than all of the other celestial instruments combined. And, they did kick around a few ideas for a while, but no sale. Any rescue operation costs too much money or is too much trouble.

That’s more than a little sad. And not just for the life that may be lost when the last pieces of the Telescope smash into the earth. Hubble is an international achievement, a unifying focus of human endeavor. It should be in a museum where it can inspire future generations of humans instead of being reduced to bits of burnt rubble. But, at least we have the photographs.

See you on the left side.