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Life With Hubble

An insider's view of the world's most famous telescope
Dr David S. Leckrone


The Hubble Space Telescope is one of the most important scientific and engineering endeavors of our time. It has given humankind the first truly clear view of the heavens and has revolutionized almost every area of modern astronomy. The author of this text, David Leckrone, worked as a project scientist on Hubble for 33 years. From 1992–2009 he was the Senior Project Scientist for Hubble at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. In that role he had an insider's view of the trials and triumphs of the Hubble mission, including its extraordinary scientific discoveries and the personal journeys of the astronomers who made them, the adventure of five successful shuttle-based servicing missions, and the quiet heroism of the many scientists, engineers and managers who rose to the occasion when Hubble was in trouble. This book is loosely a personal memoir but can more accurately be called a "Hubble family memoir" for which Leckrone serves as narrator.

Based on numerous interviews and personal observations, Life With Hubble tells the human stories and describes the professional achievements of scores of talented and dedicated individuals who made major contributions to the Hubble legacy. It spans the years from 1990, when Hubble was launched and when the affliction of spherical aberration was discovered in its optics, through the final servicing mission in 2009 and up to the present day. There are also numerous flashbacks from earlier years. This book is aimed at an informed, non-professional audience, including those who have followed the saga of Hubble throughout its lifetime.

Key Features
  • Gives an informed, behind the scenes narrative, telling an interesting and historically important story
  • Aimed at both a general audience, and interested members of the astronomical community
  • Gives cogent, understandable scientific explanations 
  • Well illustrated with historically relevant photos and Hubble imagery
  • Based on extensive recorded interviews with key scientists and engineers

About Editors

David Leckrone worked as an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center for 40 years. From 1992–2009 he held the position of Hubble's Senior Project Scientist. Leckrone helped plan and lead five highly successful Space Shuttle servicing missions to Hubble. Concurrently with his Hubble duties, he held the position of Head of the Astronomy Branch in the Laboratory for Astronomy and Solar Physics at Goddard from 1981–1991. From 2003–2006 he served as Chief Scientist for the newly formed NASA Engineering and Safety Center, organized in response to the loss of Shuttle Columbia. Leckrone retired from NASA in 2009 and currently is an Emeritus Senior Scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center. He and his wife, Marlene, reside in Silver Spring, Maryland. He has a son, daughter and two grandchildren. 

Table of Contents



Author Biography

For Additional Information

1. A Small Error: The Origin Of Spherical Aberration

2. The Road To Redemption: Learning To Service In Space

3. The Sharper Image: Correcting Spherical Aberration

4. Leading The Way: Preparing To Service Hubble

5. To The Rescue: The First Servicing Mission

6. Transfiguration: Life Without Spherical Aberration

7. Once In A Thousand Years: Preparing For Comet S/L-9

8. When Worlds Collide: The Comet Campaign

9. From Darkness To Light: Black Holes And Quasars

10. How High Is The Sky? Measuring The Universe

11. You Can Almost See Forever: The Hubble Deep Fields

12. A Bad Sunburn: The Second Servicing Mission

13. Resurrection: The NICMOS Saga

14. Racing Y2K: Servicing Mission 3a

15. Dangerous Liaison: Servicing Mission 3b

16. Stormy Weather: Hubble Under Siege

17. Replenishing The Toolbox: The Science Instruments Of SM4

18. A New Beginning: The Last Servicing Mission

19. Worlds Without End: Exploring Exoplanets

20. The Fathomless Universe: Dark Matter and Dark Energy

21. Epilogue


Hardback ISBN: 9780750320368

Ebook ISBN: 9780750320382

DOI: 10.1088/2514-3433/ab8ad0

Publisher: Institute of Physics Publishing

Series: AAS-IOP Astronomy


David Leckrone's detailed knowledge of the project, along with his warmth, friendliness, and absolute dedication to the cause shines through in what he has written. It is hard to imagine someone better able to tell the definitive story of the trials and tribulations of this 'most famous' and, dare I add, 'best loved' telescope.

I thought that I already knew this history, through my own journey with the mission and the extensive media coverage that has always followed it. However, Leckrone reveals details and insights that few others will have known and weaves it into a fascinating narrative that often surprises. Indeed, even though the problems and successes are public and very well known, the story told is often gripping and the uncertainty surrounding the outcomes at the time comes across very clearly. The effect is not just historical record, but part science history thriller. There should be a movie!

Leckrone's book will be the definitive record of the Hubble Space Telescope story. It is a triumph and a fitting celebration of the 30th anniversary of Hubble's launch.

Martin Barstow 2021 The Observatory

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