Joe Bird talks about the Hubble telescope with NASA Astronaut John Grunsfeld

Local News

Joe: When the Hubble telescope was launched in 1990 it was designed to last 15 years but it continues to operate today thanks to upgrades. It is now celebrating 29 years of science. Live this morning is NASA astronaut John Grunsfeld. I know you greatly love the Hubble because you became known as the Hubble repair man. What new images were taken recently of our universe?

John: Well Hubble has done well over 1 million images and there are a couple of images that are really mind blowing. They are a combination of 16 years of images of the deepest views of our universe. We call these deep fields. This one in particular is the largest one that we have produced. It is still only a tiny part of the sky. It is about the size of what your thumb would cover if you hold it at arms length. The picture shows over hundreds of thousands of galaxies. Each one with billions of stars reaching back to 500 million years of the big bang that started the whole universe. This shows us a snapshot of the history of the universe.

Joe: Now you actually had hands-on experiences with the Hubble because you have made repairs to it. What was it like being up there and what kind of upgrades did you do to make it last until today?

John: Well being an astronaut and going to space in the first place is just an incredible experience. Being an astronomer and scientist and going into a space suit and working on the Hubble is absolutely magical. It’s really hard to describe how incredible it is. To be able to look out at the earth is great while taking wrenches and being a mechanic on the worlds most scientific instrument. It’s just really incredible to go up there and put in these new cameras, new solar rays, batteries and gyros. We make those repairs with screwdrivers and wrenches to bring scientific instruments back to life. Hubble is working great even though our warranty is over.

Joe: So earlier I mentioned that the Hubble is supposed to last about 15 years. Next year it turns 30, so how is it doing?

John: Well Hubble is still in great shape. That’s because we have done five missions to fix all of the things that are wrong. Now it has been 10 years since the last one but Hubble is still doing great. It is observing all the time. We don’t know what the future holds of course, but the images are still coming in and we are still finding out that we live in this fantastic and beautiful universe.

Joe: For someone who has been to space before, because you just mention that, are we going back to the moon? Are you excited about that if we can ever get back up there anytime soon?

John: Of course. As you know we are in space now at the international space station. We have astronauts on board, but we are working out a plan to go back to the moon. I was inspired by the Apollo program in the 1960s. I was in elementary school and when I saw that I thought well that is a great adventure and I would like to do that and be an astronaut. It inspired me to study math and science and work hard. I’m not sure I really ever believed I could become an astronaut, but it was a goal. So I am hoping that this plan to go back to the moon will inspire young people around the world and in our country to study hard and learn new things and be successful. 

Joe: So until we get back up to the moon and get another telescope up there, where can folks learn more about the Hubble as it continues its lifespan almost double what I was expected to last.

John: Well absolutely and we are working on another telescope called the James Webb space telescope. If you want to learn more about Hubble and all the data and all the images, they are available to everybody. You can find it on Twitter or go to NASA.gov/Hubble and you can see all of our stuff including the Hubble and James Webb. You can also learn more about our plans on going to the moon.

Joe: OK thank you very much for teaching us about the Hubble this morning. We appreciate your time and wealth of knowledge.

John: My pleasure 

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