Images Credit & Copyright: NASA.
On April 24, 1990 at 08:33, STS-031 Discovery (OV-103) and crew lifted off from Launch Complex 39B (LC-39B) at Kennedy Space Center, Florida carrying what would become the single most important scientific instrument ever created for our study and understanding of the universe; the Hubble Space Telescope.
In the last 20 years it has produced massive amounts of scientific data. Data that’s revolutionized our understanding of the universe and our own solar system all the while, delivering mind blowing images that have inspired countless children and adults alike to keep looking up. Who knows how many scientists today were shaped by what they witnessed in the form of Hubble imagery.
Some of Hubble’s most notable works to date have been the “Deep Field” collection which still produces an incredible sense of wonder when seen even for the thousandth time. Hubble, through pinpoint accuracy, has allowed us to peer into the Milky Way with detail as well as study the birth, life and death of the stars within it. Massive galaxy clusters where hundreds, even thousands of galaxies gravitationally congregate have been observed along with the new mystery of dark matter and gravitational lensing effects they produce.
For all Hubble has done to help us better understand the universe and lift the spirits of humanity, its fate at this time is not so happy.
All told there were six missions to Hubble with all 4 shuttles that were around during its time including the STS-031 Discovery deployment mission.
Hubble Servicing Mission 1 (HSM1) by STS-061 Endeavour in December 1993.
HSM2 by STS-082 Discovery in February 1997.
HSM3A by STS-103 Discovery in December 1999.
HSM3B by STS-109 Columbia in March 2002.
HSM4 by STS-125 Atlantis in May 2009.
When STS-125 Atlantis left in 2009, Hubble was officially on its own; if something breaks, it dies. Eventually, sometime around 2020, without action from the very people who cherish it, Hubble will burnup in Earth’s atmosphere.
I have been working a plan, or should I say, a blueprint for a few years now off and on that I call “Operation Shooting Star; The Mission to Bring Hubble Home” and here’s just a piece of it for something to think about as I truly believe that this icon of human achievement belongs in a museum to be preserved and viewed by future generations.
The only way that I know of to bring Hubble home is to build an “alligator-like” capture ship capable of reentry that launches, rendezvous, opens, docks, captures and seals Hubble inside for return.
IS IT VIABLE?:
I believe it is. In 2009 during Servicing Mission 4 (SM4) Atlantis’s crew placed what’s called the Soft Capture and Rendezvous System (SCRS) on Hubble so when the time comes a rocket propulsion device of some sort can be launched and attached in order to bring Hubble to a controlled reentry.
What’s that mean? We already have a docking system in place and an unmanned launch is already in the plans. Albeit, the rocket that we will need to launch the capture ship will likely need to be much larger, but it’s a start.
Hubble’s 25th: http://hubble25th.org/
Hubble’s 25th anniversary image release on News center: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2015/12
NASA Hubble mission page: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/main/index.html
NASA Hubblesite: http://hubblesite.org/
NASA Hubblesite News Center: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/
ESA Space Telescope: http://www.spacetelescope.org/
ESA Science Hubble page: http://sci.esa.int/hubble/
Hubble Heritage Project: http://heritage.stsci.edu/