and how did space and time begin? The birth of the Universe is one
of the biggest mysteries in astronomy. It has perplexed the best
scientific minds for centuries. Decades before space travel was
possible, astronomers dreamed of putting a telescope into orbit
to try and answer these fundamental questions. It wasn't until the
1970s, when space flight had become a reality, that NASA resolved
to build just such a space telescope. They named it Hubble.
This was one of the
most ambitious missions ever conceived. The technical challenges
were enormous and it took 12 years to design and build. Travelling
at seventeen thousand miles an hour, the Hubble Telescope would
take pictures of the furthest reaches of space, transmitting them
400 miles back to Earth.
In April 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched. But just weeks
later, disaster struck - the $2 billion telescope had a fatal
flaw in its main mirror. This was not just a disaster for NASA;
it was a national scandal. Hubble had to be saved; scientists and
engineers began to search desperately for a solution to the problem.
for an adventurous repair mission began to take shape but it was
two years before work could be carried out. It took astronauts five
gruelling space-walks to carefully replace the instruments and patch
up the telescope. But nobody knew if Hubble would be able to deliver
on any of its original promises.
Finally, the miracle happened. An unexpected avalanche of data from Hubble
confirmed that the telescope was fixed. At last it began to solve
the most fundamental puzzles of the Universe.
Hubble has given us breathtaking images of the birth of stars; it
has found black holes swallowing matter at the centre of galaxies;
and last year the Hubble Telescope resolved the most fundamental
question in astronomy - the age of the Universe. At last, half a
century of scientific endeavour was rewarded.
Horizon marks the 10th anniversary
of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope by tracing the extraordinary
tale of triumph, disaster and eventual success of this unique window
into the Universe.