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The Hubble Space Telescope Is Falling

25 Oct 2017, 14:01 UTC
The Hubble Space Telescope Is Falling
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The Hubble Space Telescope, as imaged during the last and final servicing mission. Image credit: NASA.And if we don’t prepare to catch it now, it’ll be too late.Since 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has been redefining how we view our Universe. From hundreds of miles above the surface of the Earth, it orbits the entire world every 97 minutes. Multiple servicing missions, including the final one in 2009, have corrected its optics, enhanced its cameras, replaced worn-out parts, and boosted it to higher orbits. With the decommissioning of the space shuttle, however, the telescope that changed the world is now looking ahead to its inevitable end-of-life. Even if the fine-guidance sensors never fail; even if the reaction wheels remain operational; even if the communications equipment never dies, Hubble is in trouble. It’s presently falling back towards Earth, and there are no plans in place to stop its orbital decay.When a spacecraft re-enters Earth’s atmosphere, it almost always inevitably breaks up into many pieces. If the deorbiting isn’t done in a controlled fashion, the debris could land over populated areas, causing catastrophic damage. Image credit: NASA/ESA/Bill Moede and Jesse Carpenter.Hubble is currently orbiting Earth at a mean altitude of 353 miles, ...

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