2000 33¢ Edwin Powell Hubble
US #3384-88 picture some of the beautiful images captured by the Hubble Telescope.

On April 24, 1990, NASA launched the Hubble Telescope from the Space Shuttle Discovery.

German scientist Hermann Oberth, one of the founders of rocketry, was the first person to suggest sending a telescope into space aboard a rocket in 1923. Little was done over the next 20 years until astrophysicist Lyman Spitzer Jr. wrote a paper suggesting a space observatory. While progress was slow, Spitzer continued promoting the idea for the next 50 years.

2000 60¢ Probing the Vastness of Space
US #3409 – International Rate stamp sheet picturing the Hubble Telescope

The first major step was taken in 1969, when NASA approved the Large Space Telescope Project. Over the next five years, scientists worked out plans for the telescope and suggested that it have several interchangeable instruments, allowing it to study wavelengths from ultraviolet to infrared light. After nearly 20 years of planning, Congress approved funding for the telescope in 1977.

2008 41¢ American Scientists: Edwin Hubble
US #4226 features the telescope’s namesake, Edwin Hubble.

Building the telescope was a massive effort, utilizing crews from all over the country. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, was in charge of the design, development and construction of the telescope and its support systems. Meanwhile Goddard Space Flight Center designed and built scientific instruments for it and developed the ground control aspect. Furthermore, contractors, universities, and NASA centers worked on additional instruments.

2010 Db104000 Hubble Telescope 20th Anniversary souvenir sheet of 1
Item # M12273 – Souvenir sheet commemorating the Hubble Telescope’s 20th anniversary

In 1983, the telescope was named for Edwin Powell Hubble (1889-1953), an American astronomer whose extensive studies of galaxies helped explain the structure, size, and evolution of the universe. He was the first to note that the universe contains star systems other than our Milky Way.

2009 Union Islands 50 Yrs Space
Item #M11190 honors 50 years of space exploration and satellites with images of the Hubble Telescope.

Delays pushed back the launch date to October 1986. But earlier that year, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, halting shuttle flights for two years. The delay gave scientists the chance to upgrade certain aspects of the telescope, but maintaining it in a clean room increased the overall cost of the project.

2015 25th Anniversary of the Hubble
Item #M11687 – Sheet commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Telescope

After several years of planning, design, and construction, the Hubble Telescope was launched into space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990. It was equipped with five scientific instruments: the Wide Field/Planetary Camera, the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph, the Faint Object Camera, the Faint Object Spectrograph and the High Speed Photometer.

2020 $1.00 American Innovation - Hubble Space Telescope, MD, Denver Mint
Item #CAI015 – Denver Mint American Innovation Dollar honoring the Hubble Telescope

Shortly after going into orbit, however, scientists on Earth discovered a problem. While the pictures Hubble transmitted back were clearer than most ground-based telescopes, they weren’t as clear as expected. Scientists discovered that the primary mirror was slightly the wrong shape, causing light to bounce off the center and focus on a different area than the light bouncing off the edge. They figured out a solution – a series of small mirrors that could be installed in space. This would be an important job, as it would test the ability to repair the telescope in space.

2020 $1.00 American Innovation - Hubble Space Telescope, MD, Philadelphia Mint
Item #CAI016 – Philadelphia Mint American Innovation Dollar honoring the Hubble Telescope

Astronauts made the repair trip in December 1993, and by early 1994, Hubble was sending back the first batch of beautiful images with the clarity we’ve come to expect. With a resolution nearly 20 times that of ordinary ground-based telescopes, Hubble returns amazing images from the furthest reaches of our universe. The huge instrument can “see” the cosmos clearer than land-based telescopes because of its position above Earth’s image-distorting atmosphere. In fact, it’s said that the power is so strong – and the resolution so sharp – that it’s like seeing a pair of fireflies in Tokyo while standing in Maryland. Hubble has proven the existence of black holes, captured a comet’s collision with Jupiter, and was used to discover a fifth moon of Pluto, Styx.

Click here to explore the stunning images captured by the Hubble Telescope.

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  1. A touch of history is.informative and shows that people from all parts of the world can build on previous knowledge , work together to do great things for all of us , and make life exciting and want to learn more.

  2. At least Congress did its job in those days by approving the launching and implementation of the Hubble Telescope, and we are still benefitting by increasing our knowledge of the Universe with a better understanding of our role and existence.

  3. All of this space nonsense is a waste of money and of effort. We have plenty of problems here on Earth(don’t say the “planet” that is a generic word and our earth is all we really know–call it by name). Too bad we wasted all of that $$ on space exploration instead of working on the many problems like starvation and pollution right here. Will we ever stop avoiding the obvious?

    1. The space budget is small compared to the trillions of dollars waisted by outsourcing violence throughout the world for the benefit of the few. We need to spend more of our tax dollars to increase our knowledge of our environment as well as our inner selfs; of course, we need to allocate funds to help decrease pollution of the only home we know, earth, and alleviate the suffering of our fellow human beings.

    2. A statement from the perpetually ignorant. We spend billions of dollars to fight poverty, house the homeless and feed the hungry. It’s up to people to stop whining and take care of themselves instead of asking for a handout. Knowledge is priceless. That phone or computer you waste your time on, and ours, is a direct offshoot of NASA and it’s research into miniaturization. Knowledge benefits all. Oh, and it is a planet.

  4. Another great update on American history accomplishments and reminding us all about a great American astronomer who was indeed a great American scientist !

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