Saturday, April 24, 2010
Google celebrates the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope this week.
I didn't work on the Hubble, but I did work on the mirrors for the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, made at the same company under a different name. Hughes-Danbury Optical Systems, and other NASA contractors, surely learned a lot of lessons after the error in the Hubble mirror was discovered. In true engineering fashion, they tracked down the root causes of the error and put into place procedures that would eliminate such errors in future products. Chandra, known during development as AXAF, was the best, most rational engineering project I ever worked on, before or since. No dramas, no crises, no heroics, just calm, methodical engineering design, development, and testing. Lots of testing. And lots of documentation. And it paid off.