NASA has targeted May 11th for the launch of the space shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.
I'm psyched. When after the loss of the Columbia in 2004, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe cancelled the then-upcoming repair mission, citing "too much risk", I was really disheartened. Not just for the loss of the greatest science-and-wonder producing instrument ever created by man, but because it signalled a betrayal of NASA's mission, what the astronauts were willing to give their lives for - to move human kind's ball a little further down the field.
O'Keefe always seemed like a classic stuck-at-middle-manager to me. Doing no-one's-quite-sure-what exactly, but when the work is all done, there he is, out among "his people", slapping backs. I remember in 2004 watching the Mars Rover Spirit landing, and there he was, at JPL, wearing the band t-shirt. Putz.
The astronauts of Columbia died performing a scicence mission. As Dr. Jon Clark, the widower of astronaut Laurel Clark, on behalf of the crew's familes, said at the memorial service,
"And we must decide whether we are a space fearing or space faring nation as we step into the next phase of returning to flight and beyond. "
Apart from the scientists and astronauts at NASA, who shared that sentiment and were deeply upset at the decision to cancel the repair mission, apparently other people did too. O'Keefe was replaced by scientist and engineer Mike Griffin, who in short order, reversed the decision.
Now a last mission to the telescope is set to replace broken parts, and even improve its capabilities.
Below, is one of Hubble's most famous photographs, the "Pillars of Creation", part of the Eagle Nebula.
In this picture, look closely at those "tiny" globules at the tips of the pillar on the left. I put the word in quotes, because our entire solar-system would fit easily inside of one.
"The highest object that human beings can set before themselves is not the pursuit of any such chimera as the annihilation of the unknown; it is simply the unwearied endeavour to remove its boundaries from our little sphere of action."