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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 galaxies—work that led to his discovery of the expanding Universe.
Astronomer and Princeton professor Lyman Spitzer writes a report entitled the “Astronomical Advantages of an Extraterrestrial Observatory,” in which he discusses the feasibility of building, launching, and operating a satellite observatory to study the universe in visible light.
Spitzer was keenly aware that light from distant stars and galaxies travels trillions upon trillions of miles across space, only to be blurred during the final 100-mile passage through our planet’s atmosphere. A telescope above Earth, Spitzer correctly reasoned, could probe the universe with unprecedented clarity.
The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 creates the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Act removed the responsibility of space exploration from the US military framework. 1520 H Street, NW, Washington, DC. served as NASA headquarters for its first 3 years of operation.
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 decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”
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 experiences for the manufacture and launch of future space observatories.
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 orbit and just about to pass behind the Moon.
After Lyman Spitzer gathers support from other astronomers for a "large orbital telescope, in 1969 the National Academy of Sciences gives its approval for...
After Lyman Spitzer gathers support from other astronomers for a "large orbital telescope, in 1969 the National Academy of Sciences gives its approval for the Large Space Telescope (LST) project, and the hearings and feasibility studies continued.
"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...
Apollo 11 launches from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969, carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin into an initial Earth-orbit of 114 by 116 miles. The primary objective of Apollo 11 was to complete a national goal set by President John F. Kennedy on May 25, 1961: perform a manned lunar landing and return to Earth.
Large Space Telescope (LST) planners design the telescope under budget constraints. The LST Science Working Group recommends that the space telescope carry a large complement of interchangeable instruments. They would have specifications to resolve at least one-tenth of an arcsecond, and have a wavelength range from ultraviolet through visible to infrared light.
IMAGE: Optical Telescope assembly drawing. CREDIT: NASA
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...
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 solar arrays. In return, NASA guarantees at least 15 percent of telescope time to European astronomers.
Congress approves the budget for a space telescope. Lockheed Missiles and Space Company wins the contract to design and build the telescope. PerkinElmer is awarded the contract to construct the optical telescope assembly, which includes the 2.4-meter primary mirror, the secondary mirror, and the three fine guidance sensors.
Design and development of the LST begins
NASA assigns responsibility for design, development, and construction of the space telescope to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama....
NASA assigns responsibility for design, development, and construction of the space telescope to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is chosen to lead in the development of the scientific instruments and the ground control center. Marshall selected two primary contractors to build the Large Space Telescope. PerkinElmer Corporation in Danbury, Connecticut, is chosen to develop the optical system and guidance sensors. Lockheed Missiles and Space Company of Sunnyvale, California, is selected to produce the protective outer shroud and the support systems for the telescope, as well as to assemble the finished product.
The European Space Agency agrees to furnish the solar arrays and one of the scientific instruments (the Faint Object Camera). Goddard scientists are selected to develop another instrument (the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph) , and three of the others become the responsibility of scientists at major universities (the Wide Field/Planetary Camera, the Faint Object Spectrograph, and the High Speed Photometer).
Astronauts begin underwater training with a space telescope mockup
Marshall Space Flight Center’s (MSFC's) Neutral Buoyancy Simulator (NBS) serves as the test center for astronauts training for space-related missions. The...
Astronauts begin underwater training with a space telescope mockup
Marshall Space Flight Center’s (MSFC's) Neutral Buoyancy Simulator (NBS) serves as the test center for astronauts training for space-related missions. The facility is used to understand how humans work best in low gravity and provide information about the different kinds of structures that can be built.
Work begins on the 2.4 meter (7.9 ft) mirror
The optics company PerkinElmer is commissioned to build the Optical Telescope Assembly (OTA) and Fine Guidance Sensors (FGS). The mirror polishing was...
The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) is established as the telescope’s science operations center on the campus of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA).
Telescope is named
The telescope is named the Hubble Space Telescope after renowned astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble (1889-1953) — one of the great pioneers of modern astronomy.
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 from December 1983 to the second half of 1986.
Science instruments are delivered
The science instruments are delivered for testing at NASA in 1983.
IMAGE: Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph (GHRS)
NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger disintegrated 73 seconds after liftoff.
IMAGE: Space shuttle STS-51-L crew; (Back row, left to right) Ellison S. Onizuka, Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, and Judy Resnik; (Front row, left to right) Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, and Ron McNair.
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 translates into English as "world" or "peace."
The Russian space station will endure 15 years in orbit.