Posts tagged hubble

NASA Gets a Quarter from Every Dollar

First thing’s first: NASA does NOT get a quarter from every dollar. A quarter would be 25% of the entire Federal Budget.  Math isn’t hard.

That does get attention though doesn’t it?  Seems there is a misconception on how much money NASA actually gets.  I’m sure that if anyone reads this they have the intellect enough to google “NASA federal budget” and find out how much NASA really gets.  The answer just might shock most people.

I’ve known for years how much money NASA gets and it’s paltry.  Bad Astronomy has inspired me to blog about it myself.  Sure he gets more readers but in the name of science, every voice must be heard!  Also, I’m going to mooch some of the content of his blog.  Why invent the wheel twice?

This article talks about the perception of NASA and what it does, among other things.  The stunning part was where respondents were asked how much money NASA got.  24% was the number.  That would be 3% more than Defense.  This was in 2007.

So how much money does NASA get?  In 2007, 0.58% of the Federal Budget.  A little more than half a penny per dollar.  That’s pretty sad, eh?  We’re talking about an organization that put men on the Moon.  They put up a telescope that was a dud and then fixed it: in space.  They’ve done most of the heavy lifting in construction of the International Space Station.  They’ve sent probes all over the Solar System to study the planets.  Two rovers are still on Mars performing science well beyond their planned mission time.

I haven’t even scratched the surface.  That’s the stuff we hear about somewhat regularly but let it go, in passing.

Given that they can do so much with so little, I would be amazed to see what they could do if given a little more.  Keep in mind that at NASA there is still wasteful spending.  It’s a government organization, duh.  Even with that, they’re able to do such amazing things.  Not bad for being so low on the totem pole.

If you ever wonder why we haven’t done more or gone further in space, then wonder no more.  Shun the non-believers, shuuuuuunnnnnnn.

Hubble Space Telescope – One Last Time

Monday, May 11, 2009, Space Shuttle Atlantis will embark on a mission to give Hubble one last upgrade and servicing. Missions STS-125 is a veteran crew and a special mission in many ways. If you’ve followed this mission, then you know it’s the first since Columbia was lost (STS-107) that an orbiter will not be going to the ISS. This is special in that if a problem develops on Atlantis, the crew will need to be rescued as the ISS will not be available. Endeavour is on standby as a rescue vehicle, should it be needed. You will never see two space shuttles on the launchpad at the same time, ever again.

Two shuttles

The mission will be intense as the Hubble is old and stubborn. The crew wants no surprises but they train for them. Many eyes will be upon them as they replace cameras, gyros and other various electronics vital to its operation.

It is still hard to believe that it was initially one of NASA’s greatest embarrassments. Now Hubble is synonymous with success and wonder. After an incredibly difficult emergency servicing mission in 1993, the Hubble’s vision was corrected. Our understanding of the Universe from that day forward has never been the same.

A few Hubble facts:

  • Astronomers have used Hubble data to publish more than 7,500 scientific papers, making it one of the most productive scientific instruments ever built. In 2007 scientists published more than 700 journal articles based on Hubble data.
  • Hubble’s 18 years’ worth of observations have produced about 32 terabytes of data, equaling the content of about 9,600 digital feature-length films.
  • Hubble is nearly the size of a large school bus. It is 43.5 ft (13.2 m) in length and weighs 24,500 lb (11,110 kg).
  • In its 18-year lifetime, the telescope has made more than 100,000 trips around our planet. As a result, Hubble has racked up plenty of frequent-flier miles, about 2.5 billion. This distance is equivalent to traveling from Saturn to the Sun and back.
  • In its 18 years of observing the universe, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has made about 870,000 observations resulting in more than 560,000 images of celestial objects.

So I wish the crew of Atlantis Godspeed. Make Hubble able to bring us more breathtaking images and data. After the crew leaves, it’s likely no human hands will ever touch her again. It would be nice though, if one day, she was retrieved.

If I could one day take my grandchildren to a museum and say “that’s the Hubble telescope, your dad was named after Edwin Hubble” now that would be cool.

Atlantis is set to lift off on May 11, 2009 at 2:01pm EDT. For more info on this mission go here

Hubble Servicing Mission

Does anyone remember when Hubble was launched?  Remember how we all waited to see those brilliant images come down?  As they started to beam down to earth we all looked at each other thinking “that’s good, right?”  Those in the know immediately knew it wasn’t right.  Hubble was near-sighted.  The most expensive telescope ever built didn’t work.

Two years later a daring plan was set into motion to fix hubble.  Essentially it would be given glasses and other hardware would be upgraded as well (solar panels, gyros, etc).   Astronauts worked feverishly on Hubble until all the repairs were made.  Would they work?  Could NASA redeem itself?

The answer is a resounding “yes”.  Not only redemption but triumph.  As the new images came in, it was clear the mission was a success and our view on the Universe would never be the same again.  Chances are that you’ve seen a photo taken by Hubble.  To be more clear, if you’ve seen a picture of space in the last 15 years, it’s a good chance Hubble took it.  Sure there are scopes that are larger and gather more light but Hubble has the advantage.  It doesn’t put up with atmosphere.  No rainy days, cloudy days and it’s always night time in space.  Well to a degree it is.

NASA has serviced the Hubble a couple of times since that first servicing.  Upgrades to equipment, new cameras, better cameras and more sensitive instruments to bolster it’s scientific contribution even more.

Later this year NASA will service the Hubble one final time.  The telescope has been a workhorse for so many years and taken some of the most stunning images of the Cosmos known to man.  I’d love to be there to see the shuttle go up.  Might still happen but I won’t set my heart on it.

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