Jan Lahney | February 26, 2018
Need Another Saga America
‘What’s going on here? Someone declared war?’
‘Daddy, Tasmin says there’s no real heroes like Superman who can fly. An’…
an’… I’m stoopid ‘cos I make errors an’ I wear eye-glasses.‘
‘Ouch Tasmin! That was real nasty Hon and it’s just not true. Everyone makes
mistakes. The smartest machine ever assembled wears eye-glasses because an
error was made by clever scientists. And especially with our family and our
friends here in Maryland and elsewhere, we know real heroes who fly, risking
their lives for science, the red, white and blue and the betterment of mankind.
Our family is part of those legends and our heroes are part of the world’s space
sagas. Those heroes are an integral part of the myths and legends of now and
in the future and the U S of A led the way. ’
‘Yeah Miss Smarty-Britches, guess you could say I work in Saga Land.’
‘No you don’t. You work at Goddard’s Space Flight Centre. You and Ol’ Pa work
on unmanned space vehicles. There are no heroes.’
‘Gotta hand it to you kid: you’ve got one smart mouth for someone not using
the smart brain the good Lord gave her.
‘Question? What’s as long as your large, yellow school bus, weighs as much as
two Indian elephants, cost $4.7 billion to build and was a failure? It’s not the
first of its kind, it’s twenty-five years old, it’s going to die when it’s thirty; and
teaches everyone new things every day?
‘Psssst Tommy, your grandfather worked on it.’
‘I know. I know. See I’m not stupid. It’s the Hobble Telescope.’
‘Hubble, Pal, Hubble. Yep, ya smart kid, it’s our extra-terrestrial laboratory,
NASA’s Hubble Telescope, named after the astronomer, Edwin Hubble.’
‘Dad, he worked out in 1920 the universe is expanding.’
‘That’s right Tas. And for a time there we thought it may be contracting again.
But good old Hubble … well, let’s go back-a- ways in time.’
‘In 1990 Ol’ Pa was a right cranky-britches. Hubble had an error: “a spherical
aberration”: which just means its mirror had been ground out of whack. It was
off by one fiftieth part of the thickness of a human hair, which made the image
fuzzy and not distinct. Our scientists were mocked ‘cos billions money was
’Well they didn’t do their math right.’
‘Manners, Tasmin. I’ll have you know you’re talking about my father.
‘His team realised they had to have some astronauts like Jeffrey Hoffman go up
and fix five mirrors. COSTAR is like eye-glasses to correct Hubble’s vision and
they added the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. Now Tommy, it’s always been a
scary time to go flying into space: so much can go wrong.
‘In 2003 before the fifth service mission, there had been a real, bad accident
and seven of NASA’s great people including a lovely, lady teacher, were killed
when the Columbia Shuttle blew apart after launch. Our space science family
lost seven good people that day. We still mourn them.’
‘Hey Dad, you know what NASA stood for then? Need another seven astro…’
‘Tasmin! I think you better go to your own room real fast and take a long, hard
look at yourself Missy. These were real people with real families that we are
talking about here, not some stupid comic-book characters. How dare you
make fun of their loss. Apologise. Immediately.’
‘Sorry Dad. But that Aussie kid said it was a … ’
‘Yeah, well, without team U S of A, Aussieland and the rest of the world‘s
knowledge of astrophysics wouldn’t be worth a-hill- of-beans; and you can go
tell him that directly from me. And, if I ever hear him bad-mouthing our heroes
again he’ll have me to answer to; and it won’t be pretty.
‘Gutsy guys like the service-mission astronauts have to cheat death every time
they fly and when they step out into nothing to become a floating mechanic.
That’s a hero, Kid, in any man’s language. None of them is Superman.
‘Too right it’s neat!
‘We now know there is a black hole at the centre of each galaxy. Our galaxy is
13.7 billion years old and still expanding. Two teams, working separately, did
the math and got the same answer from Hubble data. Won the Nobel Prize in
Physics in 2011.’
‘Daddy, my posters are Hobble pictures.’
‘Sure are, Champ. Remember, it’s Hubble, like bubble. That’s Mystic Mountain
and this here is the Hubble Snow Angel. Remember Momma got that for you at
‘No, Santa brung it.’
‘Santa did. Hubble sees more.
‘In2019 we’re launching the huge James Webb Space Telescope.
‘Along with the Compton Gamma Ray and Chandra X-ray Observatories and
the Spitzer Space Telescope, Hubble makes NASA and the European Space
Agency, Saga Land. Sagas continue.