It's been floating around the Earth, orbiting 5 miles every second for the past 25 years. It's the Hubble space telescope, and it is nearing the end of its serviceable life! But that doesn't mean that some of its best discoveries are not yet to come.
Scientists are hopping for another five years of use before the gyros begin to wind down, and NASA plans to drop the giant space instrument safely somewhere into the ocean. Already lined up for "Hubble time" are more than 1,100 proposed projects, of which only abut 20 percent can be done.
There have already been five missions to service the Hubble, repairing old sensors and adding new ones. Every time that new equipment goes on line, there are a slew of new discoveries.
Originally costing $10 billion, the project was stalled from the start. first by construction delays, then from the Challenger explosion in 1986. And even after it was deployed at 340 miles above the Earth's surface, problems remained. The telescope was sending back blurry images, a set of "corrective lenses" had to be sent up.
But since then - oh the pictures!
And star fans, don't worry: The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled for 2018!