Last Updated on: 30th September 2022, 04:23 pm
Two of Silicon Valley’s wealthiest men are teaming up to save one of the most important pieces of American infrastructure: the Hubble Space Telescope.
Elon Musk, the founder and chief executive of SpaceX, and Jared Isaacman, a technology entrepreneur who led an all-civilian trip to orbit in a SpaceX spacecraft last year, have teamed up to fund a study to see if Hubble can be boosted to extend its lifespan.
“The Hubble Space Telescope has been a vital part of American space exploration for over 40 years,” said Musk. “We hope this study will help ensure that the telescope continues to serve humanity for many more years to come.”
NASA and SpaceX have teamed up to conduct a six-month study to see if one of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsules could be used to raise the altitude of the Hubble Space Telescope, potentially further extending the lifetime of the 32-year-old instrument.
“The Hubble Space Telescope has been a valuable resource for scientific discovery for more than three decades, and we are committed to ensuring that it remains operational for as long as possible,” said Christopher Shank, manager of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope Program.
NASA’s associate administrator for science, Thomas Zurbuchen, said SpaceX had approached the agency several months ago with the idea. Zurbuchen said the study is still in its early stages and there are many potential hurdles to overcome, including determining if the proposed boost could be safely done and whether it would be cost-effective.
He said the ultimate goal is to find answers to some of Hubble’s most pressing questions, like how the universe evolved and how stars and planets form.
“Hubble is one of the most important spacecraft ever built, and we are deeply committed to ensuring that it continues providing essential science for years to come,” Zurbuchen said.
Originally launched in 1990, Hubble suffered from blurry vision due to a ground-up mistake made while its mirror was being manufactured. In 1993, astronauts corrected the problem during a space shuttle mission. However, as Hubble’s orbit continues to slowly and inexorably drop, it is now in much greater danger of crashing to the ground.
The Hubble Space Telescope is not in immediate danger of falling out of the sky, but as it brushes against wisps of air, its orbit will continue to slowly and inexorably drop. Hubble is currently about 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) from the Earth, and it will fall out of orbit and become a permanent part of the atmosphere in about five years.
SpaceX has been working on a new spacecraft that they think can help NASA with its current problems. The spacecraft is called Crew Dragon and it is designed specifically for transporting astronauts and cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS).
NASA has been using the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to transport their astronauts to and from the ISS, but Soyuz is not designed to carry much cargo. SpaceX believes that their Crew Dragon spacecraft can be used to carry more cargo and bring astronauts to and from the ISS more efficiently than the Soyuz.
Mr. Isaacman said that the first mission, Polaris Dawn, which he said would launch toward the end of the first quarter of next year, is aiming to reach the highest altitude of any astronaut mission since the Apollo moon landings and to include the first private spacewalk.
Crew Dragon is much smaller than the Hubble Space Telescope. Hubble is 43.5 feet long and 14 feet wide, while Crew Dragon is only 27 feet tall and 13 feet in diameter. This size difference is due to the fact that Crew Dragon does not have a docking ring as the shuttle did.
When the shuttle was going to Hubble, astronauts installed a docking ring that was to help NASA take Hubble out of orbit when it needed to. Crew Dragon does have a docking port though, so if NASA ever needs to take Hubble back into orbit, they can do so. Another difference between Crew Dragon and Hubble is that Crew Dragon does not have a telescope on it. Hubble is the largest and most advanced space telescope ever created, and it is used to study the universe.