It hardly bears mentioning that the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope is one of the most extraordinarily successful scientific instruments of all time. Since 1993, when the telescope's flawed mirror was set right by a set of custom-fit corrective lenses, the Hubble has captured one spectacular image after another of everything from the familiar planets of the solar system to quasars and galaxies at the edge of the visible universe — and thanks to four repair missions by shuttle-riding astronauts, the telescope has managed to survive the harsh environment of orbital space far longer than anyone could have imagined.
All good things must come to an end, though. The shuttle is flying no more, and within the next couple of years, the aging telescope will gradually wink out too. It will be a terrible loss to science, and it kind of makes you wish someone had a spare Hubble secretly stashed away, just waiting to be unpacked and sent into orbit. That's what would happen in the Hollywood version, anyway.
But it turns out that it is happening in real life too. The National Science Foundation has just revealed the existence of not one but two pristine, Hubble-class space telescopes still in their original wrappings in a warehouse in Rochester, N.Y.
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