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A chronology of the Hubble Space Telescope Illustrates the mission's history from conception through its 25 years of ground-breaking observations and discoveries.
Historical Context
Edwin Hubble’s discoveries
1922–1923

With the 2.5-meter (100-inch) Hooker Telescope at Mt. Wilson Observatory in Pasadena, CA, astronomer Edwin Hubble measures the distances and velocities of...

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More about Edwin Hubble
Historical Context
Conception of a space telescope
Conception of a space telescope
1923

German physicist and rocket scientist Hermann Oberth publishes the article, Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (“The Rocket into Planetary Space”), speculating...

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More about Hermann Oberth
Historical Context
Feasibility of a space telescope
Feasibility of a space telescope
1946

Astronomer and Princeton professor Lyman Spitzer writes a report entitled the “Astronomical Advantages of an Extraterrestrial Observatory,” in which he...

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More about Lyman Spitzer
Historical Context
Space Act
Space Act
July 29, 1958

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, which creates the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Full document at the National Archives
Historical Context
NASA opens
NASA opens
October 1, 1958

The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 creates the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Act removed the responsibility of space...

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More on the birth of NASA
Historical Context
President Kennedy’s landing-a-man-on-the-Moon speech to Congress
President Kennedy’s landing-a-man-on-the-Moon speech to Congress
May 25, 1961

In his speech to a Joint Session of Congress, Kennedy states, “First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this...

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Full Speech transcript
Historical Context
NASA launches the first Orbital Astronomical Observatory
NASA launches the first Orbital Astronomical Observatory
April 8, 1966

NASA launches into orbit the first of four Orbital Astronomical Observatories (OAOs). OSOs made a number of ultraviolet observations and provided learning...

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Mission information
Historical Context
First view of Earth from the Moon
First view of Earth from the Moon
August 23, 1966

The world's first view of Earth from the vicinity of the Moon is taken by Lunar Orbiter I on August 23, 1966 at 16:35 GMT when the spacecraft was on its 16th...

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Mission Event
Project approval
1969

After Lyman Spitzer gathers support from other astronomers for a "large orbital telescope, in 1969 the National Academy of Sciences gives its approval for...

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Historical Context
"One giant leap" for mankind
July 20, 1969

Apollo 11 launches from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969, carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin...

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NASA's Apollo 11 mission
Mission Event
Interchangeable instruments are recommended
Interchangeable instruments are recommended
1974

Large Space Telescope (LST) planners design the telescope under budget constraints. The LST Science Working Group recommends that the space telescope carry a...

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Mission Event
ESA joins the project
September 17, 1975

The European Space Agency (ESA) joins the LST project; providing 15 percent of the project funding via contribution of the Faint Object Camera (FOC) and the...

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Historical Archives of the EU
Mission Event
Budget approval
Budget approval
1977

Congress approves the budget for a space telescope. Lockheed Missiles and Space Company wins the contract to design and build the telescope. PerkinElmer is...

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Mission Event
Design and development of the LST begins
Design and development of the LST begins
1978

NASA assigns responsibility for design, development, and construction of the space telescope to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama....

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Mission Event
Astronauts begin underwater training with a space telescope mockup
Astronauts begin underwater training with a space telescope mockup
1979

Marshall Space Flight Center’s (MSFC's) Neutral Buoyancy Simulator (NBS) serves as the test center for astronauts training for space-related missions. The...

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Mission Event
Work begins on the 2.4 meter (7.9 ft) mirror
Work begins on the 2.4 meter (7.9 ft) mirror
1979

The optics company PerkinElmer is commissioned to build the Optical Telescope Assembly (OTA) and Fine Guidance Sensors (FGS). The mirror polishing was...

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Mission Event
Science operations center is established
Science operations center is established
1981

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) is established as the telescope’s science operations center on the campus of the Johns Hopkins University in...

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Mission Event
Telescope is named
1983

The telescope is named the Hubble Space Telescope after renowned astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble (1889-1953) — one of the great pioneers of modern astronomy.

The Hubble Story (NASA)
Mission Event
Launch date is moved

A number of delays stemming from underestimating the costs and engineering requirements of the state-of-the-art telescope causes the launch date to be moved...

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Mission Event
Science instruments are delivered
Science instruments are delivered
1983

The science instruments are delivered for testing at NASA in 1983.
IMAGE: Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph (GHRS)

Mission Event
Optical Telescope Assembly (OTA) is ready
Optical Telescope Assembly (OTA) is ready
October 29 – November 1, 1984

The precision-ground mirror is completed and the OTA is transported from PerkinElmer to Lockheed.

Mission Event
ST-ECF begins operations
ST-ECF begins operations
1984

The Space Telescope–European Coordinating Facility (ST-ECF) is established in Munich, Germany, and serves as the telescope’s science support for European...

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Mission Event
Integration at Lockheed is completed
Integration at Lockheed is completed
February 15, 1985

Work on building Hubble is completed. The telescope, assembled at Lockheed, is ready for launch.

Historical Context
Challenger disaster
Challenger disaster
January 28, 1986

NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger disintegrated 73 seconds after liftoff.
IMAGE: Space shuttle STS-51-L crew; (Back row, left to right) Ellison S....

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Space Shuttle Challenger disaster (Wikipedia)
Historical Context
Launch of Mir spacecraft
Launch of Mir spacecraft
February 20, 1986

The first modular space station, Mir, is launched into orbit by the Soviet Union as part of an effort to maintain a long-term research outpost in space. Mir...

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Mir Space Station (NASA History)
Mission Event
Launch is delayed
Launch is delayed
1986

Hubble’s launch is delayed after the Challenger accident. The telescope is kept at Lockheed. Engineers use the interim period to subject the telescope to...

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