Hubble telescope in no hurry to retire, projected to truck along for years to come

The famous Hubble Space Telescope still has plans for great things in the coming decade.
By Laurel Kornfeld | Feb 04, 2015
The Hubble Space Telescope is edging toward its 15th year in space. At that point, it'd be fair to think that the spacecraft is closing in on retirement. According to NASA, however, the Hubble could continue supplying researchers will valuable photos until 2020 (and beyond).

Hubble was last repaired in 2009 and those repairs show no signs of faltering. In fact, the repairs have lasted longer at this point than the telescope's original hardware did.

"We're conducting what we're calling the '2020 vision' for Hubble, and that is to make sure that the observatory is ready to run for at least five or six years to get at least a year of overlap with James Webb, if not more,"said Kenneth Sembach of the Space Telescope Science Institute. "We're lucky in that we have very proactive engineering that's been going on over the last few years and continues to go on both at the [Space Telescope Science] Institute and at [NASA's] Goddard [Space Flight Center] to make sure that we're operating the observatory as safely and as effectively as we can. So, we're going to get to 2020."

NASA's desire for Hubble the 2020 benchmark is more than just an issue of pride in their own engineering. The space agency is set to launch the Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018. Having both telescopes online and focused on the same object at the same time could allow researchers to piece together a more complex image of objects in space.

"The Hubble Space Telescope mission office and the James Webb Space Telescope mission office are discussing ways that we can allow people that have excellent science ideas that require both facilities to take data of the same targets to get those data sets on both missions," said Jason Kalirai of the Space Telescope Science Institute. "We're in the process of putting together policies that are going to ensure that's possible."

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