The costs of the Hubble Space Telescope have been estimated to be between $1.5 to $2.1 billion. Counting all the repairs and fixes since it was put in orbit in 1990, the total expense is around $10 billion.
Origin and Development
The development of the space telescope took twelve years (1978 – 1990). The decision to make a space telescope was prompted by the success of the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory I and II.
It was used for obtaining information about radiation, and its success encouraged scientists to make a more powerful telescope.
Proposals were submitted during the early 1970s, but the project was beset by funding problems. Early on, the costs of the Hubble Space Telescope became a problem. It took some lobbying for NASA to get the budget approved. Even then, NASA’s budget was not enough.
Apart from scaling down its size, the agency also collaborated with the European Space Agency to get the project underway. The budget approved was $36 million. The project was named after Edwin Hubble. He was the scientist who discovered that the universe was expanding.
Delays and Launch
The telescope was supposed to be launched into space in 1983. However, it was delayed by several problems. Putting everything together took longer than expected and the Challenger tragedy also delayed its development.
Despite the increasing costs of the Hubble Space Telescope, it was finally launched into orbit in 1990. Soon after, it was learned that the mirror was installed incorrectly. While it was still able to produce images, it affected the telescope’s ability to perceive faint objects. In 1993 the problem was finally fixed.
Using sophisticated equipment, the Hubble has been able to produce some of the most stunning images of deep space. These pictures and images have captured the public imagination.
For NASA, this aspect is very important. It increased public awareness of astronomy. It also showed that taxpayers’ money was not wasted. For astronomers, the telescope has helped increase their understanding of the universe.
In particular, it has helped in figuring out the expansion rate of the cosmos.
Other Facts and Figures
The costs of the Hubble Space Telescope, for scientists, have been worth it because of the discoveries it has made. It has allowed scientists to examine space objects 100 million light-years distant. It has also produced outstanding images.
These objects, billions of light years away, are very sharp. It has also helped scientists learn more about stars. Through the years, thousands of papers have been produced based on the data generated. The data is available to the public.
The latest upgrades on the telescope cost about $900 million. After the current round of repairs, the telescope is expected to function until 2014. While this may seem like a lot, it is actually cheaper than building a new telescope.
Whatever the costs of the Hubble Space Telescope, its contribution to astronomy and science will endure. For both the scientist and the layman, it has become one of the most helpful of NASA’s space projects.