Conception, design and aims
Proposals and precursors
In 1923, Hermann Oberth—considered along with Robert H. Goddard and Konstantin Tsiolkovsky fathers of modern rocketry—publishedDie Rakete zu den Planetenräumen ("The Rocket into Planetary Space"), which mentioned how a telescope could be propelled into Earth orbit by a rocket.
Quest for funding
The US Congress questioned many aspects of the proposed budget for the telescope and forced cuts in the budget for the planning stages, which at the time consisted of very detailed studies of potential instruments and hardware for the telescope. In 1974, public spending cuts instigated byGerald Ford led to Congress cutting all funding for the telescope project.
ESA agreed to provide funding and supply one of the first generation instruments for the telescope, as well as the solar cells that would power it, and staff to work on the telescope in the United States, in return for European astronomers being guaranteed at least 15% of the observing time on the telescope. Congress eventually approved funding of US$36,000,000 for 1978, and the design of the LST began in earnest, aiming for a launch date of 1983. In 1983 the telescope was named after Edwin Hubble, who made one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century when he discovered that theuniverse is expanding.
Construction and engineering
Optical Telescope Assembly (OTA)
This ensured that the mirror's final shape would be correct and to specification when finally deployed. Mirror polishing continued until May 1981. NASA reports at the time questioned Perkin-Elmer's managerial structure, and the polishing began to slip behind schedule and over budget. To save money, NASA halted work on the back-up mirror and put the launch date of the telescope back to October 1984.
The mirror was completed by the end of 1981; it was washed using 2,400 gallons (9,100 L) of hot, deionized water and then received a reflective coating of aluminium 65 nm-thick and a protective coating of magnesium fluoride 25 nm-thick.
Doubts continued to be expressed about Perkin-Elmer's competence on a project of this importance, as their budget and timescale for producing the rest of the OTA continued to inflate.
In response to a schedule described as "unsettled and changing daily", NASA postponed the launch date of the telescope until April 1985.
Perkin-Elmer's schedules continued to slip at a rate of about one month per quarter, and at times delays reached one day for each day of work. NASA was forced to postpone the launch date until first March and then September 1986.
By this time the total project budget had risen to US$1.175 billion.
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