Hubble is the only telescope designed to be serviced in space by astronauts. After launch by Space Shuttle Discovery in 1990, four subsequent Space Shuttle missions repaired, upgraded, and replaced systems on the telescope. A fifth mission was canceled on safety grounds following the Columbia disaster. However, after spirited public discussion, NASA administrator Mike Griffin approved one final servicing mission, completed in 2009. The telescope is still operating as of 2015, and may last until 2020
Since the start of the program, a number of research projects have been carried out, some of them almost solely with Hubble, others coordinated facilities such as Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESO's Very Large Telescope
Although the Hubble observatory is nearing the end of its life, there are still major projects scheduled for it. One example is the upcoming Frontier Fields program, inspired by the results of Hubble's deep observation of the galaxy cluster Abell 1689
The Hubble Space Telescope celebrated its 20th anniversary in space on April 24, 2010. To commemorate the occasion, NASA, ESA, and Space Telescope Institute (STScI) released an image from the Carina Nebula
SM4 installed the WFC3, which captured this image of the Butterfly Nebula. The structure in the nebula is among the most complex ever observed in planetary nebulae. The spectrum of NGC 6302 shows that its central star is one of the hottest stars in the galaxy, with a surface temperature in excess of 200,000 K, implying that the star from which it formed must have been very large (cf. PG 1159 star). The central star, a white dwarf, was only recently discovered (Szyszka et al. 2009), using the upgraded Wide Field Camera 3 on board the Hubble Space Telescope.
Hubble data was initially stored on the spacecraft. When launched, the storage facilities were old-fashioned reel-to-reel tape recorders, but these were replaced by solid statedata storage facilities during servicing missions 2 and 3A. About twice daily, the Hubble Space Telescope radios data to a satellite in the geosynchronous Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS), which then downlinks the science data to one of two 60-foot (18-meter) diameter high-gain microwave antennas located at the White Sands Test Facility in White Sands, New Mexico
All images from Hubble are monochrome, but each camera incorporates a wide variety of filters that may be used. Color images are created by combining separate monochrome images taken through different filters.
Hubble orbits the Earth in the extremely tenuous upper atmosphere, and over time its orbit decays due to drag. If it is not re-boosted, it will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere within some decades, with the exact date depending on how active the Sun is and its impact on the upper atmosphere
The Horsehead Nebula, as seen in infrared with the newly installed WFC3 instrument. Looking like an apparition rising from whitecaps of interstellar foam, the iconic Horsehead Nebula has graced astronomy books ever since its discovery more than a century ago. The nebula is a favorite target for amateur and professional astronomers. It is shadowy in optical light. It appears transparent and ethereal when seen at infrared wavelengths. The rich tapestry of the Horsehead Nebula pops out against the backdrop of Milky Way stars and distant galaxies that easily are visible in infrared light. Hubble has been producing ground-breaking science for two decades
The Hubble Space Telescope has won two Space Achievement Awards from the Space Foundation for its outreach activities, in 2001 and 2010