An astronaut fixes the Hubble telescope during a space walk.
Artist's illustration of an astronaut fixing the Hubble telescope during a space walk
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To the Rescue, a 60-minute documentary about JPL's heroic struggles to save the Hubble Space Telescope, will premiere in Caltech's Beckman Auditorium Tuesday, May 23 at 7:30 p.m.

Admission is free on a first-come, first-served basis. Early arrival is recommended.

Hubble in 1990 was a punchline, a space fiasco whose name rhymed with trouble. This highly touted telescope was designed to escape Earth's blurry atmosphere, yet its creators were shocked to learn that it was cruelly nearsighted from a minuscule flaw in its lens. Enter JPL scientists and engineers, who offered up an ingenious solution to Hubble's woes. But would it work?

Just one adventure in the nineties for JPL, Hubble summed up what would be a decade of striking achievements and deeply disappointing setbacks, an era when new opportunities to explore the cosmos collided with the constraints of shrinking budgets. The Magellan craft, nicknamed Salvage I for recycled parts, barely survived its arrival at Venus. Galileo, destined for Jupiter and at the time the world's most sophisticated spacecraft, skirted mission failure when its main communications antenna refused to unfurl. And Mars Observer, the first mission to the Red Planet in nearly two decades, would mysteriously disappear just before settling into orbit.

All of these missions, those that succeeded and those that failed, shared the pure spirit of the epic journey of discovery, and the indomitable ingenuity of engineers striving to rescue machines lofted far from the foundries of their builders.

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Laura M Cinco
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