Miles O'Brien: The Hubble Constant

Miles "Intergalactic Space Badass" O'Brien, whose work we've been featuring as a guest contributor on Boing Boing Video, has a must-read piece at True Slant about the recent end of NASA's mission to repair/upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Hubble Repair Missions. After all, I cut my teeth on the space beat covering the legendary STS-61 mission in December 1993 - the first, the most dramatic - and certainly the most important - of the five astronaut telescope calls now inscribed in the space history books.

So I must confess I am a bit wistful - even a little misty - now that it is all over. We will no longer have the good fortune to witness the live drama of human beings pushing the envelope of impossibility to improve a machine that pushes the boundaries of our understanding of the universe.

Over the years, sixteen Mr. Starwrenches finessed, improvised - and sometimes used brute force - to fix what ailed Hubble - or make it better. It was Reality TV for the Space Cadet Nation.

The Hubble Constant: High Interest (True Slant)

Image: "The Ten Billion Dollar Man - Last Shuttle-eye view of Hubble."


  1. Unless he’s made some trips we don’t know about I believe that would be “*intra*galactic space badass”

  2. Why Xeni, I’d wager you have at least half a mutant-crush on the fine Mr. O’Brien. I can’t blame you, I loved him on Deep Space 9.

  3. Sometimes, a lander fails because of a software problem, and sometimes someone sees a way to extend the use of a tool beyond its intended life and purpose through “pushing the envelope of impossibility”

    It’s serendipity and misfortune along an uncontrollable frontier. Very tangible risk, with heaps of knowledge as a reward. Mr. O’Brien won’t be alone in missing the drama of one of the first, best, reality-documentary-science-nature-news tv programs ever.

  4. What really bugs me is that when Hubble’s mission is over, it’s going to be slagged in Earth’s atmosphere. It’s not right; and saying it’s too expansive to bring it back isn’t a real answer when the government wastes billions like people waste pennys.

    And before it’s dismissed as being too expensive, they should figure out how many more people (and money they would generate) to go see the Hubble at the Air and Space Museum if it was brought back. I know I’d go back.

  5. Can somebody explain what this means; “(half the time, Mother Earth proves to Hubble she would be a better door than a window).”?

    @Steelbound: And before it’s dismissed as being too expensive, they should figure out how many more people (and money they would generate) to go see the Hubble at the Air and Space Museum if it was brought back. I know I’d go back.

    Assuming the average cost of a shuttle mission is $1.5 billion dollars (and I expect that STS-125 cost above average), the 9 million visitors that currently visit NASM each year for free (not counting the requisite parking at Udvar-Hazy), that’s $167 per person in a year. I appreciate seeing the Skylab backup even if it’s not the one that flew in space. And, that being the case, the Hubble Test Telescope used for training is already on display. Too expensive, no good reason to risk the lives or money.

  6. STEELBOUND, have you been to see the big Hubble camera that is already on display at Air & Space? If not, you can’t expect the Smithsonian to take you seriously on this matter.

    I’m not trying to criticize you, just pointing out that the best way to get the Hubble back down is to make it seem profitable to the bean-counters.

    Someday I will tell the story of my brother and I showing up at the Smithsonian for an invitation-only Hubble gala liberally spattered with oil and blood, and with a tire-track across the thigh of my fancy monkey-suit. But not today!

  7. @STEELBOUND and @JEAGUILAR also let’s not forget that the Air and Space Museum is “free” (as in your tax dollars at work)

  8. The expression “you would make a better door than a window” is directed to a person who is blocking one’s view.
    I firmly believe there is high drama in robotic landings. I pushed for an hour special on the Mars Phoenix landing and it was an electrifying program.
    Now that we know how risky the shuttle really is, do you really think it is worth losing lives to hang it from the rafters of NASM?
    I was selected by NASA to fly on the shuttle – but Columbia ended that idea.
    Perhaps I should change to the metric system…Kilometers O’Brien?

Comments are closed.