Image Source: Daily Express
To extend the life of the Hubble telescope, Nasa and the SpaceX will investigate the viability of running a commercial astronaut mission.
One of the greatest scientific instruments ever created, the orbiting observatory, is progressively losing height.
If nothing is done to re-boost the telescope, it will eventually burn up after falling into the atmosphere.
NASA’s space shuttle carried out maintenance on Hubble five times, the most recent being in 2009.
Since then, the telescope has descended by around 25 km, and it now orbits the planet at a height of 540 km.
Ideally, NASA would prefer to raise the observatory back to the 600 km height where it was when it was launched in 1990.
This might extend its lifespan by 20 to 30 years, though longevity would also greatly depend on the telescope’s systems and, in particular, its four instruments continuing to function properly.
Hubble has been a very effective astronomy tool. Over the course of its lifespan, it has collected more than 1.5 million observations, leading to the publication of almost 19,000 academic research papers.
This year, it has observed the Universe’s furthest star, captured images of the largest comet ever discovered, and helped capture footage of the Dart probe’s collision with an asteroid this week.
The James Webb telescope, its replacement, was launched by NASA at the end of last year, but it was hoped that the two might continue to cooperate for a long time.
The investigation will look at how Elon Musk’s business might send a commercial crew to Hubble in one of its Dragon capsules to raise the telescope higher in the sky and maintain some of its equipment.
The gyroscopes that are used to direct the telescope at stars and galaxies may need to be replaced as part of repair and upgrade work because they have a history of failing over time.
Currently, SpaceX transports humans to and from the International Space Station using its Dragon spacecraft. Hubble, though, would be a different scenario, according to Jessica Jensen of SpaceX.
The “capture ring” that was affixed to Hubble by the final shuttle mission in 2009 is one thing that would aid Dragon.
This device was created to make it possible for a future robotic craft to grab the 12-ton telescope and take it out of the sky for safe disposal in the South Pacific Ocean.
Now, a Dragon capsule may possibly utilize the same ring to lock on Hubble and lift it skyward.
Will the Hubble telescope project re-start?
Patrick Crouse, the project manager for NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, said that the team wouldn’t have anticipated that (a Dragon trip) would be as complex as the servicing missions carried out in the past by NASA astronaut crews and the shuttle. Even yet, there is the eagerness to see what possibilities exist with NASA’s other business partners.
Jared Isaacman, a rich businessman who led the all-civilian “Inspiration4” trip into orbit last year, will help with the study. He has a project named Polaris that seeks to advance commercial space technologies.
Hubble’s job has become even more crucial with the launch of the James Webb telescope. Isaacman concluded that it is incredibly fascinating to consider the idea of prolonging the life and talents of one of the world’s greatest explorers.