Birthdays are a time for celebration, so on Friday, April 24, 2015, its time to break out the balloons and streamers and celebrate the fact that the Hubble Space Telescope will be 25 years old. Now if you think about all of the new developments technology has given us over the last several years you might think that the telescope is old and outdated. If you are thinking that or anything close to that though, you are wrong.
Despite all of the improvements that technology has brought us as a civilization this 25 year old telescope is still the best of its kind. It might be a bit worn down, which will happen after years of floating around in space, but that is just considered normal wear and tear. Not even the dents and dings can belittle the fact that the telescope if one of the most powerful ones orbiting space.
We should be celebrating the Hubble Space Telescope because without we would not understand nearly half of what we do about the universe, including its age, how galaxies have evolved, and how space has expanded. In the last 25 years the Hubble Space Telescope has had some extensive work done on it, including replacing batteries and installing new equipment. The newest equipment added to the telescope was a camera that was added in 2009 and just happened to be the best camera the telescope had ever seen. Thanks to this camera the telescope was able to see pretty deep into the cosmos.
What is rather astonishing to most of us is how old the technology is. The Hubble Space Telescope was first out into orbit in the 1970s. Despite how old the technology of the telescope is, it is still considered to be the “most powerful scientific instrument in the world,” according to Patrick McCarthy who is an astronomer who is currently working on the Giant Magellan telescope in Chile.
So even though it’s been in orbit for 25 years and is still at the top of its game. The actual fate of the telescope is currently up in the air. The Hubble Space telescope was designed to be serviced by space shuttle, but the space shuttle fleet was officially retired in 2011. So, what this means for the Hubble is it has had no repairs done since the last mission in 2009.
Without repairs eventually the Hubble is going to start to deteriorate. Electronics are going to go a bit crazy, which is too be expected in an environment that is filled with radiation. Not to mention that as it orbits around the Earth it is going in and out of sunlight constantly. This kind of exposure puts stress on all of the systems, as the telescope is constantly in a state of expanding or contracting. As it orbits Earth it is hit with a variety of debris, which leaves dings of various sizes in the telescopes exterior.
But perhaps the most concerning aspect is gravity. The telescope has no kind of propulsion, so reentry into our atmosphere is going to happen sooner or later. Currently the telescope is orbiting Earth about 340 miles above Earth’s surface and even that high up you still have a trace of atmosphere to deal with. There is just enough atmosphere up there that causes the Hubble to fall about a mile each year. Based on this rate the telescope will most likely reenter Earth’s atmosphere in 2037.
With all of this in mind NASA will eventually devise a disposal plan for this amazing piece of technology.