The Hubble Space Telescope: A Retrospective With Dr. Steven Hawley
Every year, Dr. Steven Hawley sends a card to a bunch of people - they are his old crewmates, back from the days he was with NASA. They are celebrating the most important, generation-defining NASA launch in recent history - the Hubble Space Telescope.
Launched 31 years ago, the legendary telescope is set to be replaced by the Webb space telescope. It is a momentous occasion, a rare sight of a torch being passed in space. As the whole world awaits the exchange, Betway sat down with Dr. Steven Hawley to talk about his many experiences in space.
The Doctor's Legacy
Dr. Steven Hawley has logged a total of 770 hours in space across five separate space shuttle missions, two of them related to the Hubble telescope. Once in 1990 for launching it into orbit and then again in 1997 for maintenance on the telescope. This equals about 32 days in total.
As a part of the Discovery 31 and Discovery 82 missions, Dr. Hawley worked as a flight engineer and operated the robotic arm to position and launch the telescope. He had to pick up the telescope from the payload dock and launch it into orbit. All of this was done without the safety net of collision avoidance software - he was the collision avoidance person. And in space, with all the ridiculous distractions at play, that was no mean feat.
Zero Gravity: Not A Friendly Environment
In space, nobody can tell whether they're upside-down. There is a constant need to make sure you're anchored, find which way your feet are, and hope your pencil doesn't decide to call it a day and float away from you. Dr. Hawley had to deal with everything, and he was not a fan. This is because he had a lot to do - like launching an expensive space telescope.
The pressure was high. One small miscalculation on his part and the mission would have failed horribly. Keeping one's head and staying focused on the task at hand takes a lot of determination in the face of such distraction, and he performed admirably.
The Legacy of the Launch
Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Hawley and the entire crew, we can enjoy the images of space that we have. The Hubble Space Telescope pushed the boundaries of known science. It also brought in a lot of previously unknown information and helped human beings understand their environment a little better.
Of course, nobody can get an actual inkling of how large space actually is. Even the Hubble telescope couldn't do it, though it set a limit on the observable limits of space. If you are curious, this is 94 billion light-years. Considering that a single light-year is 5.8 trillion miles, we leave it up to you to do the math.
What's more, that's just a fraction of the size of the universe. It's so vast that a ray of light from one end of the universe will not be able to reach the other end before the universe itself collapses. And the universe is still expanding. If light, which travels at the rate of 186,000 miles a second, has no hope to catch up to the ends of the universe, then no human does. We would know none of this had it not been for Dr. Hawley and his crew.
Dr. Steven Hawley is now 69 years old. He is a professor of physics and astronomy and the director of the engineering physics department at the University of Kansas. He is a well-respected scholar, but he forever maintains that the Hubble missions were his most important contribution to the world and science. It is a notion few of us disagree with, and we thank him heartily for everything he has done.
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