High Maintenance

I am glad to see that NASA has decided to send a shuttle mission to service and augment the Hubble Space telescope. A decision had been made to abandon the instrument due to safety concerns in the wake of the 2003 Columbia mishap, with the agency choosing to focus instead on building out the international space station. Like many, many others, I was as mad as a cut snake to hear that the telescope was going to be left to die, and it’s good to see that the timorous administrators at NASA have changed their minds.

In addition to repairing aging gyroscopes, replacing batteries, and other routine maintenance, the shuttle crew — whose mission is scheduled for early 2008 — will add two new imaging devices: the Wide Field Camera 3, and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, which will allow the telescope to see farther, deeper, and in a broader spectral range than ever.

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the Cats’s Eye nebula    (photo: NASA/STScI)

I think the Hubble is one of mankind’s most splendid creations, a worthy counterpoise to such embarrassments as processed cheese and the jukebox musical. You can view a stunning gallery of Hubble images here.

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