Thursday, September 10, 2009

One Giant Leap for Mankind - Americans in Space and the New and Improved Hubble Telescope

This week, NASA released photographs from the newly repaired Hubble Telescope. These images are so surreal that I think they humble anyone who views them by reminding us all that we are not just players in American history, or world history, but in a universal history. Ever since human beings could look up at the night’s sky, we have wondered how we fit into a larger picture. I won’t get philosophical or scientific about this, (that can be for other blogs) but I will say that the history of space exploration is a part of American history that I often overlook.

It is hard to believe, for example, that it was only 40 years ago that the United States landed astronauts on the moon. Likewise, it has only been 28 years since the first US space shuttle flight in 1981. That said, in such a relatively short span of years, it is difficult to believe how blasé we’ve become in American culture about our own space exploration. Almost more famous than the moon landing itself are the stories of how many people watched it on TV, with some estimates placing the number of viewers at half a billion worldwide. Ask a parent, grandparent or teacher where they were the night of the moon landing, and they will probably tell you that they watched with baited breath as Neil Armstrong took his short step for man and giant leap for mankind. Comparatively, when the shuttle crew launched in May to repair the Hubble telescope, I would be safe in guessing that the amount of people who followed the story online or took notice of it in newspapers or other media outlets was dramatically less. However, many media outlets have reported on the fruits of these astronauts’ labor: which focuses on these amazing photos showing other universes, the births of stars and other cosmic wonders.

Enjoy this video featuring some of the photos obtained by the newly repaired Hubble telescope courtesy of NBC Nightly News. If you don’t have time to watch the video, then just take a step outside and look at the sky and enjoy feeling small.

Hubble ready for its close-ups
Hubble ready for its close-ups

For more information about the Hubble telescope and its importance in American scientific history, click here.

For a timeline of America’s shuttle program, click here.

[Image via The Flash]

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