I am, admittedly, not much of a scientist. I find the scientific process tedious and uninspiring, in general. I mean, how compelling can forming and testing hypotheses be? Either it works and can be repeated (resulting in scientific fact) or it doesn’t work.
The Hubble Space Telescope, however, is one of those things that has bridged the gap between science and art. Could we have imagined 20 years ago how much we would learn from the images taken by Hubble? Such breathtaking imagery was simply beyond our imaginations. Even those images were potentially compromised when the original mirrors were cut in a way that left the telescope essentially disabled after launch. Later super telescopes have expanded the point-of-view first revealed by Hubble, allowing us to see non-visual spectrums of light revealing even the furthest reaches of the known or imagined universe.
Today, the space shuttle Atlantis launched what is likely to be the last repair mission to Hubble. It’s gyroscopes are not functioning well, leaving it wobbling in place in orbit. Left to the natural course of things, it would soon crash to earth. It will crash to earth someday, but the emotional response triggered by its breathtaking imagery led to an unprecedented demand amongst the public to keep it up there running a while longer.
Space travel is never without risk. This mission is being openly labeled higher-than-usual risk by Mission Control. I hope the brave astronauts complete their mission and return home safely.