The Big Picture: Hubble

By Phil Plait | May 18, 2009 2:16 pm

No shocker here: The Big Picture has a feature on the Hubble servicing mission. Know what else isn’t shocking? It’s fantastic!

The Big Picture: Hubble!

Awesome. But I also like picture #6, showing the tools the astronauts used for the repair. You can see the drill that looks like a Star Trek phaser! Appropriate, since the astronauts on the Space Station got a special upload of the new movie so they could watch it.

Comments (68)

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  1. Große Bilder « Alles was fliegt | May 19, 2009
  1. Daniel

    I love the pictures Hubble sends back to us earthbound folk and I understand it has also solved some astrophysics puzzles for us (like black holes and their roles in galaxy formation) and that it returns a third of NASA’s information at only 2% of their budget (according to figures from Newsy.com), but I find myself asking what the practical application of the astrophysical information is, especially considering every time astronauts go up there’s a chance of some potentially lethal mistake.

  2. QUASAR

    Excellent shot! Those look like new solar panels!

  3. Hey, #18 looked familiar! ;)

  4. Nemo

    So what you’re saying is, if I find a pirated copy of the movie online, there’s a chance that it came from space? Sweet.

  5. Lars

    lol @ the iPod in #28 :)

  6. ND

    It still looks bran’ spankin’ new. I wish there was an unmanned method of bringing it back to earth at the end of its life, instead of having it burn up. Is there any robotic satellite retrieval system out there?

    Regardless, waiting for more science from the Hubble in the coming years.

  7. Mike Carroll

    @ND: This iteration of the Hubble is supposed to last until 2014 at least. The Shuttle program is scheduled to be dead by then, and the replacement vehicle isn’t likely to be able to handle 13 tons of metal. I’m not sure the Shuttle could handle landing with that much weight, either!

  8. Huron

    @Mike Carroll

    Considering that NASA did originally plan for the Shuttle to bring the Hubble back, I think it is safe to say that the Shuttle can bring it back.

  9. A-Maise-NG (Spell checker optional moment).

    So – has any mentioned whether the ISS crew enjoyed the movie? (I didn’t see it in the linked story).

    I’ve had NASA TV on all weekend.

    jbs

  10. Charlie Young

    You know what I like about this stuff…they can’t screw up the science. If they did, people would die or go hurtling off into space or things blow up. What we see is real science!

  11. When do we get to go?!?

  12. Christina Viering
  13. Charlie Young

    Have to say it again…Space Shuttle Astronaut: World’s Greatest Job!

  14. Cindy

    By the time Hubble was launched, the plan to bring it back to Earth had already been nixed. Still, I wish I could go up and give it a big hug since I worked on it for almost 5 years at the beginning.

  15. It’s good to know that such a viable piece of equipment is still recieving so much attention, even with the newer scopes going up from the ESA.

  16. But where are the stars? ;-)

    Love the last photo – the astronaut close up.

  17. MadScientist

    @Quasar: New solar panels? What did the old ones look like? There’s not much dust in the orbit and any dust which crosses the orbit is likely to be moving at several km/s relative to Hubble. At any rate, don’t expect a film of dust on any human made objects in space (and as others noted – it still looks like new). Also, with virtually no oxygen at that altitude you just wouldn’t see things tarnish – at least not in a human’s lifetime.

  18. harpe éolienne

    beautiful photos! love the Kármán vortices underneath Hubble.

  19. Michael Gray

    For what it is worth, #30 is by far the best photograph…

  20. chris

    Amazing photos, in fact I think those are some of the clearest photos I’ve seen yet of any space walk related images.

    On another note: the Hubble has gone quite far past its expected life hasn’t it? Actually hasn’t alot of NASA equipment including the Mars Rover and the Space Shuttle?

    Again those are some marvelous photos.

  21. At least the Hubble hasn’t encountered the Satellite of Love (yet)

    J/P=?

  22. StevoR

    Appropriate, since the astronauts on the Space Station got a special upload of the new [Star Trek] movie so they could watch it.

    D’oh! I just emailed the BA with a link to that story! Then I come here & find he’s already mentioned it. Oh well.

  23. Flying sardines

    Nemo : (May 18th, 2009 at 4:39 pm)

    So what you’re saying is, if I find a pirated copy of the movie online, there’s a chance that it came from space? Sweet.

    If so would that make the ISS astronauts a bunch of space pirates?

  24. StevoR

    Huron : (May 18th, 2009 at 6:08 pm)

    @Mike Carroll -Considering that NASA did originally plan for the Shuttle to bring the Hubble back, I think it is safe to say that the Shuttle can bring it back.

    I’d like to see that. It seems a dreadful pity that such a marvellous space telescope as Hubble -one that has given us all so much and caused so much joy and reaped so much information just gets burnt up in our atmosphere like any old bit of space junk. What a waste. :-(

    I’d love to see the HST either boosted into a higher orbit where it can be retrieved at a later date (even 100′s of years later ) or – as Huron suggested – brought back by a shuttle for display at the Smithsonian or someplace else apt. That seems about the least we can do for it.
    (Yeah I know its just an inanimate machine but still ..)

    It would be an apt choice of mission for a surprise very last ever flight of the shuttle wouldn’t it?

    Although I also generally favour keeping the shuttle flights going untilwe’ve got a better alternative. I’ll be sad to see those beatiful, amazing first reusuable spaceplanes go for all their faults and failure to live up to exactly what was promised.

    I’d like a “no-gaps” policy – perhaps upgrading the shuttle fleet slightly but keeping them going until their replacements arrive. If that means we have to make a few slightly riskier flights and give the replacement people the hurry-up so be it.

  25. T_U_T

    I’d love to see the HST either boosted into a higher orbit where it can be retrieved at a later date (even 100’s of years later ) or – as Huron suggested – brought back by a shuttle for display at the Smithsonian or someplace else apt. That seems about the least we can do for it.

    Move it to international space station. It could be then repaired indeffinitely.

  26. Craig

    In picture 19, where is Megan’s left foot?

  27. Plutonium Being From Pluto

    @ T_U_T :

    Move it [Hubble] to international space station. It could be then repaired indefinitely.

    That idea was mentioned before on another BA blog comments thread.

    Unfortunately, it was pointed out that either attaching it to, or even just having it near, the ISS would be less than ideal on its operating becaude of thrusts from the ISS knocking it about, vibrations from the astronauts, and a few other things. Pity, I kinda liked that idea too before I read about that… :-(

    Actually, give us a min and I’ll see if I can find the post for you … ;-)

  28. T_U_T

    Unfortunately, it was pointed out that either attaching it to, or even just having it near, the ISS would be less than ideal

    there is vacuum out of there. No vibrations can be transferred to hubble. Just floating say 30 m before the space station can not possibly hurt the telescope in any way. Ans also, less than ideal is still infinitely better than none.

  29. Plutonium Being From Pluto

    Still looking … No luck yet. It was a good post that explained why it wasn’t a good idea far better than I can … On one fairly recent thread ..somewhere.

    ‘Less than ideal beats none’ though? Agreed.

  30. Plutonium Being From Pluto

    Hmmm .. I tried to post this before with the link in the website box but its not appearing so I’m trying again and seeing if the moderating will let it through …
    ——————————————————————————————————

    Finally found it! Here ’tis :

    ***
    ellindsey Says:

    On May 11th, 2009 at 6:55 am

    The Hubble can’t be attached to the ISS for a few reasons.

    First, the ISS and HST have orbits which are angled to each other in such a way that it would take almost as much energy to get to one from the other as it would to get from the ground to either of them. You can’t just push it over like driving down the street, there’s a huge difference in movement vectors.

    Secondly, the ISS would be a terrible environment for the Hubble. If you attached it directly to the station backplane, vibration in the ISS structure from pumps and people moving around would prevent the Hubble from getting a clear picture. Even if you didn’t hard-mount it, outgassing from the station and residue from station maneuvering thrusters would get into the Hubble, condense on the optics and fog images.

    ***

    Hope ellindsey doesn’t mind me cut & pasting this over here & apologies if this breaches netiquette in any way.

    The original thread can be found via :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/05/10/hubble-repair-mission-launches-monday-at-201-et/

  31. T_U_T

    I found it. It says basically three things.

    1. it claims that changing hubble orbit to ISS would require as much fuel as bringing it back. Which is blatantly false.
    2. It claims that vibrations of space station,would blur hubble images, which is true, but hubble does not need to be attached directly to space station
    3. that gasses from the ISS would damage its optics. Which is also not true, because gas density around ISS is not significantly higher than gas density of surrounding ionosphere.

  32. MadScientist

    @chris: if I’m not too senile, the shuttles were originally conceived to have a 10-year operational life max – the Endeavor is the youngest of the fleet and already well past the 10 years. The original idea was that the shuttles would be heavily used and the fleet regularly upgraded and replaced; it seemed sensible at the time because there was typically at least one rocket launch every two weeks during the Cold War and many people were expecting the number of launches to increase especially as civilian organizations developed a demand for space services (such as satellite launches). Obsolescence of parts, the enormous cost and complexity of each shuttle, and the fact that launch costs never became as cheap as once hoped for somewhat trapped NASA into doing its best to keep the fleet going rather than upgrading and replacing as originally envisioned. The single exception was the Endeavor, which was commissioned after the Challenger tragedy.

  33. Bill Nettles

    T_U_T No vibrations can be transferred to hubble.

    go read Plutonium’s comment again. When ISS fires its thrusters, the gas has velocity and can hit Hubble. That transfers momentum to Hubble. Also, you don’t want ISS blocking part of the sky.

  34. Plutonium Being From Pluto

    Well ellindsey’s comment actually – I just remembered it, searched for it, found it & posted it again. (Blushes.) ;-)

    Hope this is okay by ellindsey.

  35. MadScientist

    @T_U_T:

    To get Hubble to the ISS means retrieving it and launching it again. Remember once the shuttle loses the external fuel tank, it really hasn’t got much fuel at all. This is why Discovery is on the pad ready for launch if there are problems with Atlantis – the shuttle can’t even make it to the ISS.

    Hubble itself doesn’t have enough fuel to place it into the ISS orbit – that’s assuming the attitude control and propulsion systems have the flexibility to point Hubble where you please and fire the rockets. So the only alternative it to take the bird down and launch again.

    With Hubble in the same orbit as the ISS there are a number of issues including: (1) there’s a great big thing blocking out more of the view of the sky and (2) exposure times will be shorter. You severely cripple the observation capacity of Hubble while maintaining the same operational costs. 5 years (possibly longer) would give scientists plenty of time to make good use of the latest set of instruments. After that time it would be nice to capture the bird and put it in a museum, but one way or the other it would be time for people to say goodbye to one of the most amazing, complicated, and compact observatories ever built.

  36. fred edison

    She’s free. The updated and repaired HST has been released from the grip of Atlantis. Once again, that marvelous package of scientific instrumentation is free to dazzle our senses and boggle our minds. A “great job” goes out to everyone involved who helped make it happen.

  37. So many photos. So few desktops to wallpaper.

  38. T_U_T

    When ISS fires its thrusters, the gas has velocity and can hit Hubble. That transfers momentum to Hubble.

    That is true only if ISS crew were completely stupid and placed hubble directly before thrusters.

    Also, you don’t want ISS blocking part of the sky.

    I suppose, no hubble at all would produce far more pictures than hubble with a small part of the sky obscured by ISS.

    So the only alternative it to take the bird down and launch again.

    Or send an automated mission that attaches an ion thruster to it and then pushes it to ISS. Which is actually less expensive than or deorbiting it completely because if you deorbit it, you have to use conventional thrusters.

  39. T_U_T

    exposure times will be shorter.

    Why should they be ? There is no reason for that.

  40. ND

    I don’t think the Hubble has any fuel on it. And I don’t think they attached any sort of module with rockets on it in this mission. I didn’t find any info on such an upgrade to Hubble.

    As for having Hubble near ISS but not attached, I don’t think you want something as large as the Hubble floating near the ISS. Also the ISS needs to boost it’s orbit regularly because of degradation. Again, I don’t think the Hubble has fuel on it.

  41. T_U_T

    Hubble has some fuel for turning.

    I don’t think you want something as large as the Hubble floating near the ISS.

    Why ? Hubble can not bump into it accidentally. This is space. Thing don’t just float around randomly here. Movements are predictable here to high precision.

    Also the ISS needs to boost it’s orbit regularly because of degradation

    So hubble would have to be repeatedly attached to it ( presumably by a long cable ). So what ?

  42. Erasmussimo

    They sent the Star Trek movie to the Shuttle?!??! Aren’t they afraid that it might inspire some rather rambunctious behavior by the astronauts? “Hey, Joe, watch me do what Kirk did skydiving out of his shuttle! Yahoo!”

  43. Buzz Parsec

    Tut, don’t think attaching the Hubble to the space station or keeping it near by would make any sense for the reasons cited. However, what I think would make perfect sense, if it were possible, would be to place it in an orbit in the same plane as the ISS, but several hundred miles higher. It would then be possible to visit it from the ISS, or bring it back to the ISS for servicing, using a minimal amount of fuel. (My rough guess would be a few hundred pounds of
    fuel.) An Orion capsule or a specially built space tug could do the job easily.

    To get the Hubble into such an orbit would be enourmously expensive (in terms of fuel), because orbital plane changes require a large change in velocity. Even with an ion engine, it would require years of thrusting and thousands of pounds of fuel. I don’t think Hubble could do observations while the engine was on, due to oscillations. If the thrust vector wasn’t dead on through the center of gravity, it would tend to make the telescope rotate, which would require constant corrections by the gyroscopes, wearing them out prematurely and inducing a constant wobble instead of steady pointing.

    JWST is going to be launched to a distant orbit (IIRC at the L2 point like Herschel and Planck), far outside the Moon’s orbit. This makes sense because it is an infrared telescope and you want to keep it away from warm objects like the earth. However, it isn’t really a replacement for Hubble which is primarily and optical and near UV telescope, and doesn’t mind the heat of the Earth nearly so much. It might well make sense to launch any future true replacement telescope (optical and UV) into an orbit coplaner with the ISS to
    make maintenance easier, but I know of no such plans.

  44. Cheyenne

    I really wish there was a Hubble replacement on the drawing board at least. Something with a primary mirror massively bigger than the current one, all the best hardware and software we can use, and sent out to whatever orbit makes for the best observations.

  45. T_U_T

    Buzz parsec, all the other objections but the orbit change are invalid.
    So I will make a quick estimate for you.
    hubble orbits at 600 km, space station at 350, to deorbit it controllably, you would need to decrease its perigee to at least 100 km, so, if you first decrease its perigee to 250 km and then circularize the orbit, you will need roughly the same amount of delta v as if you deorbit it by decreasing its perigee by 500 km. Which is aproximately 2 % of orbital velocity.

    But the inclination difference between hubble and ISS is 22.5 degree. so you will need at least 38 % of orbital velocity. So for hubble rescue you will nedd 20 times delta V which is required for deorbiting. But. For deorbiting you will have to use conventional rocket which is 30 times less efficient in terms of ISp. so, you will need only 66.6 % of fuel for hubble rescue. So I stay by what I said. Rescue is cheaper than deorbiting.

    Of course during ion engine operation the telescope can not take pictures. So it has to be scheduled after the telescope stops working to prevent loss of useful operation time.

  46. TUT. IT. CAN’T. BE. DONE. Get over it. Your ignorance (“it claims that changing hubble orbit to ISS would require as much fuel as bringing it back. Which is blatantly false.”) is not excuse.

  47. T_U_T

    If you claim I am ignorant, you really ought to tell what I am ignoring. You can start for example by showing where my calculation is mistaken.

  48. ND

    T_U_T: “So hubble would have to be repeatedly attached to it ( presumably by a long cable )”

    So a soyuz goes out with a cable attached, connects it to the hubble. The hubble gets reeled in and gently docked to the station, orbit corrected and then towed back out by a soyuz again? Sounds tricky and rather bumpy for a precision instrument.

    And how far out from the station should the hubble be?

  49. Iactually find the pics of Atlantis on its way to the launch pad some of the coolest. Never having seen a shuttle in person, it really puts into perspective how monstrous the whole contraption is. TV definitely doesn’t do it justice.

  50. @ unquiet mind:

    Closest I ever got at liftoff was on the causeway linking Canaveral with the mainland. (That’s where the big countdown clock is.) We were seated on top of a van. When the sound reached us, the whole van started shaking, as if an earthquake were rocking us back and forth.. A guy next to us used to come see the Saturn 5s go off. He said the shuttle couldn’t compare.

    Now that I would love to have seen…and felt.

  51. T_U_T

    So a soyuz goes out with a cable attached, connects it to the hubble. The hubble gets reeled in and gently docked to the station, orbit corrected and then towed back out by a soyuz again? Sounds tricky and rather bumpy for a precision instrument.

    You may still attach small thrusters to the end of the cable and maneuver it to hubble. Or connect hubble to the space station permanently by a thin thread along which the cable will be pulled

    And how far out from the station should the hubble be?

    No clue how such a cable can be long. The longer the better.

  52. J_w23

    A dutch news site/weblog has some sort of Big Picture as well about hubble:

    http://gigapica.geenstijl.nl/2009/05/bye_bye_hubble.html#more

  53. ND

    T_U_T

    I would think that any sort of cable will have weight and tug on Hubble as it’s trying to keep steady. Also, the thread could get tangled up on something on the station. Those solar panels are pretty huge. Sorry but your idea sounds a little fishy to me. Also, the hubble will be spinning around itself so there is the danger of entanglement there.

    Also, how do you make sure that the hubble is pulled straight in to the mounting area. Once you start tugging it in, it’s going to come in at a speed, even if slow. How do you gently slow it down before docking it to the station. There is also the possibility that once you reel it in, it might come at a slight different angle and hit the station.

    Some sort of thruster module attached to the end of the hubble might be better.

  54. ND

    I keep forgetting about erasing the website link. I hope it’ll clear up with this attempt. sorry for the cluttering the thread.

  55. Cheyenne

    @T_U_T- Sorry my man, bad idea in so, so many ways.

    This is what is going to happen – the Hubble is going to give us another half decade or so of really amazing observations. Then it’s going to be de-orbited and we’ll all just pause and give our thumbs up to the old girl as she arcs a beautiful burn up on re-entry.

    Then, hopefully, we’ll wake up the next day and hit the big red button at NASA that launches up the next fleet of successor ‘scopes that will amaze us even more.

  56. T_U_T

    I would think that any sort of cable will have weight and tug on Hubble as it’s trying to keep steady.

    A nylon thread weights only a few gram. Its pull in microgravity would be infinitesimal.

    Also, the thread could get tangled up on something on the station.

    there is no wind in space. It can not tangle itself.

    Also, the hubble will be spinning around itself so there is the danger of entanglement there.

    Thac can be avoided by careful planning.

    How do you gently slow it down before docking it to the station.

    Simple air filled bag will do the trick.

    Some sort of thruster module attached to the end of the hubble might be better.

    That is of course a possibility too.

  57. T_U_T

    @T_U_T- Sorry my man, bad idea in so, so many ways.

    Making ISS more useful is probably the worst of them, isn’t it

  58. Cheyenne

    @T_U_T-

    It’s grade school math really. The ISS has produced a quantity of 0 big science. When you multiply 0 by two you get – 0.

    If NASA really wanted to screw us all they’d triple the so called “science” spend up on that most expensive science project ever conceived and launched.

  59. T_U_T

    your bias is so visible you might as well admit that you just hate humans in space.

  60. T_U_T

    HALELUJA ! comment edit !

  61. Maybe you should edit that last comment T_U_T. ;-)

  62. T_U_T

    damn. Too late. 15 min expired. :) But I am really happy about the edit button anyway :)

  63. Cheyenne

    @T_U_T- I don’t hate humans in space. I don’t hate anything. No, strike that, the girlfriend made me watch “Dancing with the Stars” last night so I really do actually hate that. Ugh. UGH. Brutal.

    You get the biggest win ever for “HALELUJA ! comment edit !”. Priceless.

  64. T_U_T

    I think you do. your 0 science comment shows you have 0 objectivity and just making up excuses to shut the whole business down

  65. Matt T

    Wait, hasn’t BA already debunked #17 as a FAKE!!!1!!pi!???

    poe-guard: ;-)

  66. Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor)

    Yes! We do in fact now have comment edit. Did take a little longer than we hoped — promised it to Phil, IVAN3MAN, Larian LaQuella, and the rest of the BABloggees a few months ago — but hey, we got it now.

    Game on.

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