NASA extended the Hubble Space Telescope science operations contract on June 23, 2016. The new agreement will have effect from July 1, 2016, until June 30, 2021, and it comes with a bump in the budget. The legal document is signed for $2.03 billion which represents a $196.3 million increase, and it was awarded to the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy for continued Hubble science operations support at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.
Felicia Chou, from NASA’s Head Quarters in Washington, said that the contract would cover every single operational requirement such as system engineering, science ground system development, science operations and so on. The last time the Hubble received a visit was in 2009 when a shuttle was launched to provide service to the space telescope. Since then, it has worked marvels and helped in the discovery of a lot of new things.
“This contract extension covers the work necessary to continue the science program of the Hubble mission by the Space Telescope Science Institute. The support includes the products and services required to execute science system engineering, science ground system development, science operations, science research, grants management and public outreach support for Hubble and data archive support for missions in the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes,” reads the announcement made by Chou at NASA’s official website.
The Hubble has an outstanding service record
Since the beginning of times, men have been obsessed with the sky. There are a lot of observatories dated way back to the Stone Age that ancient civilizations used to study the movements of the stars. But it wasn’t until recently that technology developed, giving our species the chance to start finally understanding the basics of the universe. Prominent minds like Einstein and Newton’s had already successfully approached this area of study using their incredible talents to theorize upon it, but now the human race has the means to see literally what they never could.
Since it was launched in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has helped astrophysics unlock the mysteries of the universe. There are too many, but maybe, one of the most emblematic moments was when they used the Hubble’s data to determine the age of the universe. The specialists used a lot of data and developed new methods to study the distances light travels in the world and by doing so they end up realizing the universe was around 137 billion years old.
In the past, great men like Nicolaus Copernicus, a mathematician, and astronomer, understood how a solar system works. He developed a theory that was way ahead of his time by saying the Sun was the center of the universe and not Earth, and he had to reverse his statement in fear of the Inquisition. However, the religious persecutions ended, and his theory found friendlier ears that proved it. The scientists used both Copernicus model of a solar system in combination with the images provided by the Hubble to discover thousands of millions of galaxies. The list of discoveries is way too long to tell in an article, but NASA has an excellent record of most of them.
Ms. Chou also talked about the James Webb Space Telescope, which is a much more powerful version of the Hubble. She said NASA expects to launch it in 2018, and that the members of the organization expect it to “build on Hubble’s legacy of discoveries.”