Blasting, billowing, bursting forth
With the power of ten
billion butterfly sneezes
Man with his flaming pyre
Has conquered the wayward breezes
Climbing to tranquility
Far above the cloud
Conceiving the heavens
Clear of misty shroud…
- Moody Blues, Higher and Higher
Growing up we were insatiable in our appetite for anything related to space – missiles, telescopes, books on astronomy – or anything by Clarke or Asimov (and later Pournelle & Niven). Time spent contemplating watery, pale views of Mars or Jupiter (courtesy atmospherics) was supplemented with black and white photography in accompanying astronomy books. When we first saw 2001 and the explosion of color and texture possible in space – well beyond the grainy low res color TV pictures or 8mm films of the time, we sat transfixed in wonderment.
And so it was in great anticipation we awaited the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and were sorely disappointed when the initial imagery came back all blurry. But a visit by a follow-on crew of orbital optemitrists remedied that situation and the results – well, the results have been nothing short of breathtaking. See for yourself:
Recently, after over 18 years on orbit, the HST passed its 100,000th orbit. The HST is slated for one more servicing flight by the Shuttle astronauts, later this year. After that another good ten years will be expected from Hubble before it is de-orbited at the end of its lifespan. When it does, it will close the circle in a firey death, probably somewhere over the Pacific. But the images of this vast, beautiful universe around us will remain – and that is its legacy, along with those thousands of engineers, scientists, astronauts and dreamers who conceived, built, put it on orbit and operate it today.