In the news: NASA’s blurry blunder
Ever been frustrated by a part that doesn’t quite fit your classic the way you want it to? Then spare a thought for NASA’s scientists, who’d spent millions of dollars and 20 years making a telescope that didn’t work properly.
On 24 April 1990, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration used the Discovery space shuttle to give the Hubble Space Telescope – named after the late astronomer Edwin Hubble – a highly publicised lift into orbit. It was another month before the first pictures came through, but when they did the scientists were shocked by the blurry results – the photos were no better than those taken by a telescope back on Earth.
The telescope might have been the size of a railway carriage, but the dodgy images were due to a microscopic miscalculation: the telescope’s mirror should have been flatter, but only by about a 50th of the width of a human hair.
It took NASA three years to fix the telescope by attaching a series of correcting mirrors, but the results were worth it. Since the repair, it has sent back stunning images of Jupiter being struck by a comet and has provided mankind with the deepest ever views of the universe.
That sort of painstaking perseverance is well worth thinking about the next time your restoration suffers a minor setback.