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NASA Space Science

Why Hubble Broke and How It Was Fixed 73

Posted by samzenpus
from the still-under-warranty dept.
angry tapir writes "I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Charles (Charlie) Pellerin, who was NASA's director of astrophysics when the Hubble Space Telescope launched with its seemingly fatally flawed optical system. Pellerin went on to head up the servicing mission that finally fixed the telescope and for that was awarded NASA's highest honor, a Distinguished Service Medal. Since Hubble he has done a lot of thinking about the problems that led up to the error and how organizations can best avoid making similar mistakes."
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Why Hubble Broke and How It Was Fixed

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  • Re:The real hero (Score:5, Interesting)

    by decsnake (6658) on Friday March 30, 2012 @09:45AM (#39522035) Homepage

    yeah, the guys that designed the corrective optics, the mechanism that deployed them, all the tooling, processes and procedures that were needed to install them and trained the astronauts didn't matter at all. It was all Story. Yup, he's the real hero.

    The real driver behind the repair missions was this guy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Cepollina [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:The real story... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 30, 2012 @09:46AM (#39522051)

    I worked for NASA at the time of the repair. Sadly, because of the ridiculous cost of the shuttle the cost of repair could have built 3 Hubbles, launched two using Atlas boosters to a higher, clearing and more useful orbit and kept one in reserve. Just. for. the. rescue. mission. STS was a horrendous waste of talent and opportunity.

  • Re:The real hero (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 30, 2012 @10:04AM (#39522243)

    Or, you know, you could use entirely unmanned space hardware and with the money saved, just launch another space telescope. But when your priorities are drama and romance instead of science, go ahead and train hairless apes and use extremely expensive gadgets to go play repair-man in orbit.

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday March 30, 2012 @10:07AM (#39522279) Journal

    This is the core of real engineering work, and it's one of the reasons I loved working at NASA under great management. I mostly squandered the opportunities I had there, and yet I still learned more from that time than anything else in my career. I actually started there working for a brilliant optics guy who was at Perkin Elmer during the Hubble years. Later, my direct supervisor went on to play a key role in the servicing mission, and (last I heard) was part of the JWST team.

    Later, worked in private industry for the team the (essentially) discovered the hole in the ozone layer. We got into it verbally from time to time, but I really respected his knowledge of the physics we were involved in. I once joked about getting fired if the part I was working on failed. He looked me right in the eye and said, "Oh, I won't fire you. I'll make you stay here and fix it." I smile a bit every time I think about that meeting.

  • Re:Interesting read (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MrFlibbs (945469) on Friday March 30, 2012 @10:37AM (#39522597)

    I attended an astronomy conference a year ago that included a presentation from a NASA guy on the mars rovers. He had a few disparaging things to say about Lockheed-Martin, including blaming them for the Mars Climate Orbiter failure. He said their contract included a statement to recalibrate the thruster in the metric system but they failed to do so. (Of course, he neglected to mention that NASA was managing the project and failed to catch the error.) He also said one of the rovers drove by the heat shield (built by Lockheed-Martin) from the rover landing and there was a big disagreement over examining the heat shield up close to see how well it held up. Lockheed-Martin wanted the data but wanted to keep it secret on the grounds it was a proprietary design. NASA said all their data is public so it's either we drive by without looking, or we take a look and release all the data. They eventually did the latter.

    One more thing -- the same conference included a presentation by a professional astronomer who had overseen the building of an observatory in Chile. He had disparaging things to say about NASA -- that their cost estimate was 10X over what he eventually spent on the project. Guess it all depends on your point of view.

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