The year 1990 had a lot going for it. The U.S. military commenced its first (but not last!) invasion of Iraq. The Simpsons premiered on television — the beginning of a nearly three-decade dominance of the airwaves (haha, just kidding). Oh, and NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope, beginning one of the most influential space missions ever conducted.
And now it’s official — we can expect even more great stuff from Hubble. NASA extended the space telescope’s science operations for another five years today. The new contract calls for a $196.3 million bump on top of the existing contract, bringing its total value to $2.03 billion.
NASA is already preparing to launch Hubble’s successor, the insanely more powerful James Webb Space Telescope in 2018, so Hubble’s new contract will have some overlap with its younger, stronger brother-scope. But Hubble continues to punch way above its weight, figuratively, collecting an extraordinary array of unique space data.
Just last month, Hubble snapped up one of the best images of Mars ever seen. In March, it broke another distance record, peering off into a galaxy 13.4 billion light-years away. In early June, a team of scientists just used observations from Hubble to find out the universe is expanding faster than we thought, possibly because of dark matter or dark energy.
In short, Hubble is the gift that keeps on giving — and there’s no reason to shut down its successful run yet. Having the JWST and Hubble both operating in orbit means NASA can maximize its instruments and discover more about space than we’ve ever imagined.