Saturday, April 24, 2010

New Pillars of Creation, by Ball Aerospace (updated with larger image 2 January 2014)

The New Pillars of Creation 
New image from Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3
Click on the image for a huge version

In a recent post, I mentioned that Ball Aerospace made the Halley Multicolor Camera that took the image of the nucleus of Halley's Comet back in 1986.

Despite a rather thorough internet search, I never found any reference to that fact.  Ball never seems to get credit for much of anything they do.  In news reports, space projects are always credited to JPL or NASA or the Air Force or the European Space Agency -- but those agencies very seldom design or build anything.  Or the reports mention the principal investigator -- usually some astronomer at a university who knows little of how to design and build a space probe or satellite or instrument.  He just knows the kind of data he would like to see.

I remember seeing the OSO spacecraft from the 1960's in the Smithsonian -- completely designed and built by Ball, and completely uncredited.  The Mars Exploration Rovers had numerous subsystems built by Ball, including panoramic cameras and their pointing systems, telemetry board, power systems, and the main high-gain antenna, but whenever I mention it to anyone, they say, "Oh, I didn't know that Ball did anything on MER."

Then there are the images on Google Earth/Maps.  Many, if not most of them are from satellites built by Ball for DigitalGlobe.  Again, no mention.

And the photo shown above, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, and featured on news sites around the world today in honor of Hubble's 20th anniversary in space, was taken by a Ball instrument.  In fact, after the last servicing mission, all of the instruments now on Hubble were designed and built by Ball.

And Ball was the company that saved the whole Hubble mission, when it was determined after launch that the primary mirror had been made improperly by Perkin Elmer and had never been tested.  Ball made the highly complex optical system that was installed by astronauts to correct Hubble's focus.

But there is no mention of any of this anywhere today.

I think Ball needs to hire a good PR guy.

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