Monday, September 29, 2008

Hubble Trouble

10,000 galaxies from the Hubble Ultra Deep Field.

The Hubble Space Telescope has suffered a failure in the Control Unit/Science Formatter. This device stores and transmits all telescope data. This will almost certainly delay Servicing Mission STS-125 scheduled for next month. The astronaut's training in Houston has already been impacted by Hurricane Ike. In turn STS-126 to the Space Station will be delayed, for which Endeavour is sitting on Pad 39-B for Launch On Need rescue.

Both Shuttle missions were intended to launch before late November, when the Sun's inclination on solar panels makes ISS missions more difficult. Also "workforce issues" come into play, as NASA personnel wish to take holiday! After flight Pad 39-B was to be modified for the Ares 1-X launch. That flight was scheduled for April 009, then June, and now will be delayed further. The effect of this system failure will cascade down the line.

As befitting its name, Hubble's primary scientific mission is to measure expansion of the Universe. That is expressed in the famous "Hubble Constant." Hubble's constant is not really constant; astronomers agree it changes with time. By measuring redshifts of distant supernovae, astronomers came to the paradoxical conclusion that the universe is accelerating! That would violate the First Law of Thermodynamics, so a repulsive "dark energy" was inferred to oppose gravity. Pursuit of DE has misled physics for a decade. If scientists had realised that data pointed to the speed of light changing, it would have been one of history's great discoveries. Humans may lack the wisdom to use an instrument like Hubble.

Launch Complex 39 with two Shuttles on the pads simultaneously. Atlantis sits on Pad 39-A in preparation for STS-125. In the background Endeavour is poised on Pad 39-B for Launch On Need.

Jennifer of Twisted Physics hosts this week's Carnival of Space!

Labels: ,

Locations of visitors to this page