CIRCLING THE PLANET OR THE DRAIN?
Circling the drain— a colloquial term by doctors, is defined by medical-dictionary.com as ‘a macabre slang term referring to a patient whose fu-ture prospects of life are dim.’ Whilst not a living, breathing organism, it is often the norm to gift certain machines, whether it be boats or planes with human qualities, and in our view the Hubble Telescope is no different.
Unfortunately, whilst being gifted these qualities would often be considered a bless-ing (like a ship getting sprayed with champagne upon launch-ing), they can also be a curse. In this case, it’s because the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is broken, and people are saying it might be terminal. Due to a suspected problem with a memory module, the payload computer has beenhalted for over two weeks. This means that all scien-tific operations have been suspended, whilst NASA continue to extend the investigation to locate, and fix the source of the problems.
Whilst this may not sound like the end of the world, (don’t worry—it isn’t) the HST is more than just an-other telescope. Launched in 1990, not as the first, but indeed one of the larg-est and most versatile telescopes, it has been a huge PR boon for the in-dustry as much as it has been in a success in ex-tending the field of astronomy. Without boiling down three decades of discovery too much, the telescope helped us understand the age of the universe, the prevalence of black holes on a galactic level and helped us picture many of the solar sys-tems’ planets and their orbit-ing bodies. All this on a daily diet of only 2,100 watts (this is as much as approximately 5 refrigerators).
If that doesn’t convince you that it is worth saving, perhaps the 15,000 peer reviewed journals or the advances in aerospace engineering will?
At the end of the day, it comes down to Clay’s Three D’s of space: Danger, Difficulty and most importantly; Dollars.
With no (cost effective, safe) solution in sight, there’s one question on everyone’s minds ‘NASA, have you tried turning it off and on again?’