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The famous telescope was named after U.S. astronomer Edwin Hubble, whose observations of variable stars in distant galaxies confirmed that the universe was expanding and gave support to the Big Bang theory.
After a long delay due to the Challenger disaster in 1986, the Hubble Space Telescope shot into orbit on April 24, 1990, piggybacking aboard the Discovery space shuttle. Since its launch, Hubble has reshaped our view of space, with scientists writing thousands of papers based on the telescope’s clear-eyed findings on important stuff like the age of the universe, gigantic black holes or what stars look like in the throes of death.
Hubble is the only telescope designed to be serviced in space by astronauts. Between 1993 and 2002, four missions repaired, upgraded, and replaced systems on the telescope, but 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 now expected to function until at least 2014. Its scientific successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), is to be launched in 2018 or possibly later.