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The year is 1993 and the first ever, back-to-back spacewalks are used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope mirror (Okolski, n.d.). Quoting Star Trek; to boldly go where no man has gone before; space has always been a dream for those who are curious and want to understand that which we cannot touch but only see. The thing with space is we do not know what we cannot see. Visualize the Hubble Space Telescope; now visualize the pictures it sends to Earth blurry and out of focus. This was unacceptable to scientists and interested citizens. The photographs in my paper represent the repairs undertaken to fix the telescope and give us the clarity we demand. They are a tribute to the United States astronauts who braved space and unproven procedures to further the exploration of the cosmos. From lift-off on the ground, to the completed installation of the new solar panels on the Hubble Space Telescope, these photographs are aesthetically beautiful, fair, and accurate historical representation of American ingenuity, passion, and commitment to humankind’s future.
These pictures tell the story of the repair of the Hubble Space Telescope from launching the astronauts to the completed installation of ‘eye glasses’. I am personally interested in space exploration and this topic appealed to me. My research revealed that the company that built the defective mirror, Perkin-Elmer suspected it was flawed before it was put into orbit. This company did not alert the Government or try to stop the launch. Watching the launch, one employee commented to a co-worker about his fears the mirror had a defect. More than a slight defect, the defect was found to be 100 times greater than the accuracy certified by Perkin-Elmer. After a 3-year investigation, Perkin-Elmer agreed to pay $25 million in damages to the Federal Government (Broad, 1993). My personal thoughts on this is that money was the root cause, get the telescope up so someone can start reaping the financial benefits. It seemed to me there had been no concern for the astronauts that would need to be sent to repair it. Through my research, I learned that routine repair trips were already in the shuttle schedule (Okolski, n.d.). That says to me we planned to make the Hubble Telescope a long-term asset of science. Patriotism; that is emotion that these photographs evoke within me. The prevalence of the USA flag and even the NASA logos speak to me about what our country has accomplished in space. I am reminded of the benefits we have gained through space exploration; satellites provide us so much information that we tend to take for granted. Our ability to go to school online, our smart phones, the weather alerts, all are examples of utilizing space technology. Looking at the photographs of these astronauts performing tasks on the shuttle makes me think that my job is not nearly as challenging. It is incredible. To view the blue of the Earth from their perspective and see the drop off into the blackness of space gives me the chance to see earth by looking from the outside in. I feel very small and am awed.
I selected a series of four photographs to evaluate for this project. The first photograph is of the launch pad; the shuttle is being sent into space amidst billowing clouds of exhaust and bright light of the propulsion from the rockets reflected against a dark sky. A flag and USA is displayed on the shuttle as is a NASA logo.
The last three photographs I selected are aesthetically appealing and the purpose of work of these photographs fall under the categories science, and news. All three show the image of the earth at the top of the frame, vibrant blues and white clouds set on top of the black of space. In each frame, the telescope is the central focal point, it is shiny silver and shiny copper with white enamel. The USA flag is displayed on the telescope and on the sleeve of the astronauts’ space suits. NASA’s logo is displayed on the shuttle as well. Two of the photographs show the astronauts going about their work. You can see the mechanical arm that is extended from the space shuttle, the astronauts use it to complete the repairs. The final photograph shows the telescope with new arrays of solar panels installed; it is taken from within the space shuttle as the edges of the window are displayed in the photograph.
These photographs were taken in 1993, yet the Hubble Space Telescopes’ story starts before that. It was launched into orbit in 1990 but development began long before that day. The first concepts of a space-based observatory date back to the end of World War II, 1946. Because the Earth’s atmosphere blurs and distorts light coming from the stars, the need to get past the atmosphere inspired the idea of an orbiting telescope. The mirror for the telescope was completed in 1981 and assembled in 1984. In 1983 the telescope was named after Edwin P. Hubble, the astronomer who proved the universe was expanding. With support from NASA and international cooperation from the European Space Research Organization, the cost of the Hubble Space Telescope was funded. However, the cost was still too high. By reducing the size of the mirror from 3 to 2.4 meters, the original cost estimated at $400 to $500 million was brought down to about $200 million. In 1977, Congress accepted the $200 million proposal and approved the Large Space Telescope program. (Okolski, n.d.).
Launched into space in 1990 from space shuttle Discovery, the first images returned to the earth were blurred. This was identified as a ‘spherical aberration’ in its primary telescopic mirror. The primary mirror was defective due to a miscalibrated measuring instrument which ground the edges of the mirror slightly too flat. A team made up of optical engineers, astronomers, and astronauts came up with a fix referred to as ‘putting contact lenses or glasses on Hubble’ (Rescuing, 2015).
The historic repairs were done in 1993. In addition to fixing the mirror, other repairs were completed; replacing two of its gyroscope modules, two electronic control units, two magnetometers, additional memory in the main computer, and replacing two of the solar panels (arrays). A total of five back-to-back spacewalks were needed to accomplish all the tasks. The astronauts knew the main mission was to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope; however, they were excited about demonstrating the capability and level of maturity of their orbital operations. They had to show the world that they could do it (Rescuing, 2015)!
Space creates difficulties for photography due to low light conditions; absence of gravity, free floating objects. To film extravehicular activities (EVA) the camera must not produce gas or fire. It must be wieldable with bulky space gloves and compensate for the intense glare caused by solar radiation. In addition, there are precise weight requirements (Lynch, 2013).
Technology of the cameras used can be attributed to Nikon. Nikon has been supplying NASA with cameras since the 1960’s (Lynch, 2013). NASA continued its relationship with Nikon with the transition to digital photography. In 1991 the Nikon F4 and F4S were delivered to NASA. These were the first fully digital single lens reflex (SLR) cameras (Nikon, 2010). Digitized video signals were not captured until 1974 when the charge-coupled device (CCD) was invented. This is a computer chip that converts electronic analog signals into digital values. Good image quality is a photograph that reproduces well; it has a full range of tones, supplied by proper exposure and contract. As a rule, a picture is considered properly exposed if it shows detail in the shadow areas and in the light areas (Lester, 2012). These photographs of the Hubble Space Telescope repairs were produced with digital cameras and are of excellent image quality. Nikon’s digital cameras are still being used today. They have clarity and are properly exposed as is shown in the details in the shadows as well as the light areas.
Good is the ethical theme for these photographs. There is nothing unethical about the presentation of the subjects in these photographs. The theme is utilitarianism, meaning the greater good wins (Lester, 2012). The needs of the viewers are met; the photographs are aesthetically appealing; beautiful, clear, images that are not photo-shopped. These astronauts took great pride in their mission, among them they had 16 space flights worth of experience. They held several dress rehearsals of the activities that they called ‘choreography’. Some of these dress rehearsals were 54 hours long using a shuttle mission simulator. They did not want to make any mistakes. Prior to the launch, two teams of two astronauts each, were quarantined for a week for medical reasons and to permit them time to decompress and relax a little. Team number one; Jeffrey Hoffman and Story Musgrave. Team number two; Tom Akers and Kathy Thornton. These teams would alter days in space to accomplish the repairs (Rescuing, 2015). The photographs of the repairs violated none of the astronaut’s rights and reflect moderation and empathy towards them. This says the photographs followed the rules of visual journalists. Visual journalists operate as trustees of the public. Photos should reveal great truth, should not be staged photo opportunities, and photographing of the subjects does not alter and/or influence the events (NPPA, n.d.).
The Hubble Space Telescope repairs and the subsequent photographing of the events reflects the cultural values of the United States. Scientific studies of the cosmos for the greater good of humankind. The telescope helps researchers make discoveries about the universe, planets, and stars. Let’s include in that the galaxies and cosmology. This provides insight into the history of our planet and the fate of our universe. The National Academy of Science urged the construction of the telescope. They said that a large orbital telescope would make a huge contribution to our knowledge of space. NASA’s support enabled the telescope project to be executed (Okolski, n.d.). The need for repairs would not have been necessary had our nation not considered the Hubble Space Telescope a valuable contribution to science. It follows logically that we, as a nation, would want historical preservation of the events surrounding the repairs with aesthetically beautiful, compelling photographs.
I think these photographs are a great historical representation of the United States commitment to science, its research, and the betterment of humankind. In 1946, a professor and researcher at Yale University, Lyman Spitzer wrote about the astronomical advantages of a telescope in orbit (Okolski, n.d.). Technology did not end with the telescope. The repair is a testament to other technological advances such as space flight and long-term space residence (Rescuing, 2015). Spitzer’s idea of space-based optical observatories was a demonstration of inventiveness, literally thinking out of the box. We took his arguments along with those of the astronomical community and built one of the most technologically advanced pieces of equipment humans had built to date. Not only that, we launched it into space! Then we revisited it, fixed, it and returned to tell about it.
In conclusion, the curious and adventurous in all of us appreciate what science has done for us regarding space exploration. Visualize the Hubble Space Telescope; now visualize the pictures it sends to Earth blurry and out of focus. This was unacceptable to scientists and interested citizens. The photographs in my paper represent the repairs undertaken to fix the telescope and give us the clarity we demand. They are a tribute to the United States astronauts who braved space and unproven procedures to further the exploration of the cosmos. From lift-off on the ground, to the completed installation of the new solar panels on the Hubble Space Telescope, these photographs are aesthetically beautiful, fair, and accurate historical representation of American ingenuity, passion, and commitment to humankind’s future.
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