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Hubble Space Telescope's Odometer Turns Over 100,000 Orbits on August 11

Press Release From: Space Telescope Science Institute
Posted: Tuesday, August 5, 2008

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The odometer on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is about to turn over 100,000. That's not 100,000 miles but the number of orbits it has made around Earth since it was launched aboard the space shuttle Discovery on April 24, 1990.

To remain in orbit the spacecraft zooms along at nearly five miles per second. So Hubble's actual odometer mileage is approximately 2.72 billion miles, the equivalent of 5,700 round trips to the Moon. It's also the number of miles Americans will drive today in less than 3 hours. That's not bad considering Hubble doesn't use fuel of any kind, only Earth's gravity to maintain it in a circular orbit.

Although Hubble doesn't require fuel, it is similar to cars and other vehicles in that it does have wear and tear, and needs servicing and upgrading from time to time. It's dinged by micrometeorite impacts, and sunlight and temperature extremes degrade its silvery thermal insulating material.

The telescope will get another tune-up in October when astronauts aboard the space shuttle Atlantis make one final mechanic's check to replace worn components and install spanking new instruments to extend Hubble's vision.

Hubble's odometer turns over at 7:42 a.m. EDT on August 11. At that time Hubble will be moving northward as it crosses the intersection point where its orbit passes directly over Earth's equator.

In celebration of the telescope's tireless star trekking, the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) will release to the news media and public a commemorative image taken less than a day before the milestone. The image will be released to the media at 1:00 a.m. EDT on August 11, and Hubble telescope scientists will be available for commentary in the morning news hour.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) and is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Md. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) conducts Hubble science operations. The institute is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., Washington, D.C.

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