Look, I’m not going to sugar coat this. If you don’t care about astronomy and our space program in general, and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in particular, you should probably not be reading here for the next week to ten days. On the other hand, as has been noted before, if you don’t care about those things, why are you reading my blog to begin with?
Circular reasoning aside, the next week is going to be full of HST, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum (amazingly, I’ve never been there yet!), and Washington, DC sightseeing and tourism up the ying-yang. Or up the Potomac, at least. Since I’ll be there for six days and have cousins in the area as well as The Long-Suffering Sister-In-Law and one of The Long-Suffering Nieces On The Long-Suffering Wife’s Side, it won’t be ALL space exploration and squeeing and slack-jawed touristing. Probably no more than about 98.5%.
Before we get into all of that, here are a few disjointed, unorganized, miscellaneous thoughts about the upcoming trip:
- I will refer to the Hubble Space Telescope as “HST” constantly. Be forewarned, I’m not typing that all out a zillion times.
- A lot of the live stuff, particularly for the NASA Social on Thursday, the 23rd, will be coming out on Twitter first. You can watch my Twitter feed scroll on the right-hand side here, or you can follow me directly on Twitter. I’m @momdude56.
- At the other NASA Socials I’ve been at I’ve been one of the older attendees. I would make a WAG that the average age (excluding me) is probably in the early 30’s, with lots of college kids in their 20’s and lots of working folks in their 30’s and 40’s. That being the case, I expect that there may be more than a few attendees who were not even born when HST launched twenty-five years ago.
- This blows my mind. Just a little.
- There are a couple of very, very nice e-books available on HST, and since they come from NASA and NASA’s funded by our tax dollars, they’re free! The latest one, for the 25th Anniversary, is here. There’s another one, “Hubble: An Overview of the Space Telescope,” as well as a couple of similar volumes on the upcoming Webb Space Telescope, which will eventually replace HST. You can either download an epub file, or you can get them for free from the iTunes Store.
- I’ll bet there will only be a handful of attendees who were alive for the Apollo moon landings. The flip side of feeling old and wanting to yell at kids to get off of my lawn is the realization that these generations have never known a time when we had not been to the moon. It’s just like my generation has never known a time when commercial airline travel wasn’t commonplace.
- Being paid for by our tax dollars, we also have access to all of the images produced. NASA and the Space Telescope Science Institute have several fantastic websites where you can learn all about HST, as well as scan through a gajillion images in different levels of detail. Go here first – the pictures are in the Gallery tab.
- I remember the Space Shuttle mission to launch HST, how amazing it looked in orbit as they pulled away.
- I remember the crushing disappointment when they found out that the optics were flawed and the HST might be useless.
- I remember the thrill when they figured out a way to do the nearly impossible, designing a series of lenses (HST’s “eyeglasses”) to correct the optics. Of course, they also had to figure out a way to open up parts of the HST that were never intended to be opened up on orbit, and do repair jobs that were never dreamed of or designed for. They had to carry all of this work out while wearing awkward, heavy, spacesuit gloves and floating weightless, so that every loose screw or drifting tool was a potential disaster.
- I remember the first pictures being released after the repairs, pictures that absolutely blew us away. And then they got better. And better.
- I remember the second and third servicing missions, where reaction control wheels had failed and left HST with limited (and failing) abilities to point accurately. Again, parts that weren’t supposed to be replaced or even accessed on orbit. Again, done flawlessly. Then we started upgrading the cameras and instruments internal in HST’s innards, giving us even more amazing images and discoveries.
- I remember the HST “Deep Field Image” where every dot is a galaxy, some over ten billion years old.
- I remember when the previous administration decided that it was “too dangerous” to do a final servicing mission to HST with the Space Shuttle, since it wouldn’t be able to go to the ISS if there was a problem. I was more than just a bit furious.
- I remember when the next administration said, “Bullshit! When did we get so timid? Who says that we can’t figure this out and get ‘er done?” (I paraphrase.)
So now I’ll get to be a part of the celebration of HST’s 25th birthday. Stay here for updates, I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.