Donald Savage

Headquarters, Washington, DC

(Phone: 202/358-1547)

Nancy Neal

Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD

(Phone: 301/286-0039)

Ray Villard

Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD

(Phone: 410/338-4514)

RELEASE: 00-59

A spectacular morning launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery
ten years ago, on April 24, 1990, ushered in a new golden age of
astronomy. The payload in Discovery’s cargo bay, NASA’s Hubble
Space Telescope, was released by the crew into Earth orbit the
next day and the Universe hasn’t looked the same since.

“This month marks the anniversary of one of the greatest
observatories ever flown. We have watched in awe as the Hubble
Space Telescope has produced some of the most amazing images about
the Universe that surrounds us,” said Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski
(D-MD). “I am so proud of the NASA team that has worked to keep
it running and I’m pleased my support has kept your efforts funded
and in business.”

Even though initially impaired by a flaw in its main mirror
(it was expertly made but to the wrong “prescription,” causing its
images to be blurred), Hubble’s position above the distortion of
Earth’s atmosphere enabled it to begin making major discoveries
even before astronauts repaired it in 1993. When corrective
optics were installed during that dramatic first servicing
mission, the Universe suddenly snapped into sharp focus, and there
followed a flood of spectacular images and discoveries which have
forever changed how we view the cosmos.

“Hubble’s rate of discovery is simply unprecedented for any
single observatory,” said Dr. Ed Weiler, Associate Administrator
for Space Science, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC, who has been
associated with the Hubble program since 1978. “But what may be
even more important in the long term is what Hubble has given to
just about everyone on Earth. Hubble’s spectacular images and
discoveries of black holes, colliding galaxies and bizarre objects
at the edge of the Universe have been brought into millions of
homes by newspapers, television and the Internet.”

In its first ten years, the 12.5-ton Earth-orbiting Hubble
has studied 13,670 objects, has made 271,000 individual
observations, and has returned 3.5 terabytes of data, which have
been archived as a scientific treasure trove for future
generations of astronomers. Its rapid-fire scientific
achievements have resulted in over 2,651 scientific papers.

“Not since Galileo aimed a small 30-power telescope into the
night sky in 1609 has humanity’s vision of the Universe been so
revolutionized in such a short time span by a single instrument,”
said Dr. David Leckrone, Hubble Project Scientist at NASA’s
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. “The Hubble Space
Telescope has seen further and more clearly than any visible-light
telescope before it, and has revolutionized the science of
astronomy. It already has earned a place as one of the wonders of
the modern world.”

Hubble’s photographic hall of fame includes the deepest view
ever of the Universe in visible light; a peek into the environs of
supermassive galactic black holes; the majestic birth of stars in
monstrous stellar clouds; planetary systems forming around other
stars; extraordinary arcs, shells, and ribbons of glowing gas
sculpted by the deaths of ordinary stars; mega-megaton blasts
produced by the impact of a comet into the cloud tops of Jupiter;
the surface of mysterious Pluto; and galaxies at the edge of space
and time.

Hubble was conceived to tackle scientific goals that could be
accomplished only by an observatory in space. Its mission is to
spend 20 years probing the farthest and faintest reaches of the
cosmos. Crucial to fulfilling this objective is a series of on-
orbit servicing missions by Space Shuttle astronauts. The First
Servicing Mission took place in December 1993 and Second Servicing
Mission was flown in February 1997. Last December, Servicing
Mission 3A was performed. These missions extended Hubble’s
scientific power with new instruments; modernized its systems with
new technology; and performed critical maintenance and repairs of
its optics, solar arrays, gyros and other components. As a result
of these improvements, Hubble is a far more capable observatory
than when it was launched. Future servicing missions to Hubble
are planned for 2001 and 2003.

The telescope is named after U.S. astronomer Edwin P. Hubble
who, early in this century, discovered galaxies beyond our Milky
Way and made the first rough measurements of the expansion rate of
space. Now, after 70 years of debate and speculation, astronomy
has come full circle: scientists using the Hubble Telescope have
detected galaxies out to the visible horizon of the Universe, and
have accurately pinned down the size, expansion rate and age of
the Universe.

Hubble will be decommissioned in 2010, and replaced by the
Next Generation Space Telescope. Having a much larger mirror, the
NGST will pick up where Hubble left off by searching for the faint
glimmer of light from the first stars ever born in the Universe.
Beyond NGST, ever larger and more advanced telescopes will search
for Earth-like extrasolar planets and evidence for life beyond our
solar system.

The Hubble Space Telescope is managed and operated by Goddard
for the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters. The Space
Telescope Science Institute manages the Hubble Telescope’s science
observing program under contract to NASA. The Hubble Space
Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA
and the European Space Agency.

More information about the telescope and its anniversary can
be found on the Internet at: