The Mankind’s Eyes in Orbit: The Hubble Space Telescope Images as Cultural Artifacts


“There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, 
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” 
Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

In the realm of our corporeal existence, the vision apparatus is often regarded as one of the most important senses for survival. From art to science, the micro- and macro dimensions of the universe in which the Homo sapiens experiences are established through vision.[1] Particularly when turning the heads and eyes toward the night sky, vision allows species to objectify what we see, regardless of the inability to experience things that are ‘out there’, separated from our existence here on Earth—physically and culturally. Primarily functioning through vision—that is, the process of obtaining information by interacting with electromagnetic radiation—the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) revolutionized mankind’s objectification of the universe and its ‘weirdness’. Named after the influential American astronomer in the 20th century Edwin Hubble, who was responsible for the discovery that we live in one of the uncountable galaxies in a fast expanding universe, the impact of the HST as a scientific artifact will live on for many generations to come.

What are the main motivations, triumphs, and challenges in the history of the HST in the sociopolitical context it was developed? How do the ethics around the artifact and its discoveries are shaping astronomy and human history? In attempting to address these two main research questions, I consider the history of the HST as an extension of in human eye around Earth’s orbit. To do so, I discuss the cosmological and historical shifts catalyzed by Galileo’s objection of the magnifying glass in order to lay out the arguments for the HST as an orbiting eye not as a ‘window into the soul’ but rather as a window to the farthest reach of space and time. I argue that, despite its disembodied, remote, and abstract technological nature, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) serves not only as scientific artifact engineered to powerfully capture light information from high astronomical bodies, but also as cultural artifact that is capable of enhancing the public appreciation for science and mankind’s endeavors in dealing with some of our most enduring about ourselves and the cosmos we inhabit.

The making of the HST is a hard one to detail. However, one of its most important remarkable features is rooted in the fact that its design was thought out as an artifact capable to be revisited, upgraded, and fixed. This design strategy explains the nature of the artifact as a combination of separate instruments operating under the same complex systems. Attached to the outside of the HST, resembling a general cylindrical telescope or as the backbone of the artifact, there is a pair of large routable solar arrays an aperture door on the main entrance. Inside the tube there are primary and secondary mirrors, meaning that the Hubble is a type of telescope known as a Cassegrain reflector—one that depends on two mirrors before sending the bounced light to onboard scientific instruments (image 1). In fact, these instruments vary in function, size, importance, and its lifetime, which means that many of them have been used and replaced by astronauts in orbit as if new organs could be added and removed surgically.[2] In daily operations, the HST sends the collected light information from astronomical bodies to a tracking and data relay satellite via a long antenna, which in turn will send the information to a ground station in New Mexico. That information is then sent to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, which is later analyzed by the Space Telescope Science Space Institute in Baltimore, MD.[3]



Image 1 – Illustration of the Main Components of the Hubble Space Telescope.


Similar to the human eye, which relies on biochemical reactions and electrical transmission done by neurons on the way to the brain, the HST relies on numbers and encryption. Without mathematics and computers, the HST would not be able to convert the data into the beautiful pictures the telescope has become famous for.

Nevertheless, the knowledge required for the Hubble as a space telescope is much older than computers or flight itself. In fact, it is often attributed to Galileo the title as ‘the inventor of the telescope.’ Using an object referred as ‘occhiale’ or ‘persipicillum,’ Galileo revolutionized science with his observations of astronomical bodies (image 2). However, in the book “Galileo, The Telescope, and the Science of Optics in the Sixteenth Century,” Seven Dupre argues that the telescope was never invented. According to him, the notion that the ‘telescopium’ of the mid-17th century was never invented is more than a matter of semantics. In the Oxford English Dictionary, the root of word ‘telescopium’ originates from tele- as ‘at a distance’ plus -scopium as ‘scope’.[4] But the enduring question is: when did the telescope become a telescope? Dupre argues that the meaning of the paradox is that “the instrument given the name of ‘telescopium’ was not the consequence of any single deliberate decision to make an optical instrument that had the design properties of the ‘telescopium’ and of which the purpose was astronomical observation.”[5] Furthermore, he states that question about ‘who’ invented the telescope’ “can only be answered by making rather arbitrary decisions about what is considered to be a telescope.”[6] This brief and yet profound paradox illustrates the intriguing task in unpacking the process of objectification, that is, the ways in which a species transforms or remakes the given natural or sociocultural into human worlds mad in their own corporal image.


Image 2 – Galileo's drawing of the optical path of his telescope.

For the purpose of this essay, however, I essentially refer to the optical nature of the general telescope in its brief history to lay out the foundation for discussing the Hubble Space Telescope as the core artifact of discussion. The essential point here is that the Hubble Space Telescope, as a technological and cultural object, operates under completely different conditions as the ones objectified by Galileo in the 16th century and yet remains closely related to the corporeal organization of the Homo sapiens.

Galileo may well be the main figure responsible for objectifying the magnifying glass exclusively for astronomical observations, but human societies always had a strong connection with the celestial sphere long before the telescope as a scientific tool. The observation of the night sky, in particular, played an essential role in relation to the exploratory behavior of the Homo sapiens. For example, in the 12-century book DidascaliconHugh of St Victor indicates sea navigation as the one of the Artes Mechanicae.[7] During the Portuguese Sea Explorations of the 15th century, celestial navigation heavily relied on constellation observations using the naked eye associated with other human-made artifacts (maps, astrolabe, and marine sextant) in order to estimate location in unknown seas.[8] For human communities on land, the constellations also served as orientation for indicating the ideal period for planning the agricultural-related activities, from planting to harvesting.[9] Without the use of the telescope, the observation of the celestial sphere allowed for the cultural and scientific speculation for many things: the passage of time, lunar cycles, movement of the five well-known planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn), eclipses, etc. In any society, the cyclical nature of these aforementioned events, that is, the objectification of the astronomical bodies as part of everyday culture, did not initially depend on the telescope. This implies that the use of the telescope essentially enhanced the human eye and thus enabling further observations that otherwise would be impossible to detect. Nevertheless, for the most part of human history, humans relied on either the human eye alone or in association with other human-made artifacts.

            In addition to the condition of the human eye, coupled with the ability to develop technology, the bipedal skeletal structure may have also played a decisive role in enabling for the upward and stable movement of the head toward the sky. Despite the fact that every culture developed its unique cosmological explanations, there are certainly many similarities they shared; after all, their observations of nature were essentially depended on what their corporeal apparatus could directly experience. Some of these common corporeal experiences included alternations between day and night, temperature oscillation in a given day, periodically modifications on the natural landscape across the period of one year and many others. Any phenomena beyond the realm of every-day observations—such as a passage of a comet, an eclipse, or a supernova event—were perceived as supernatural, spiritual, magical, etc. This helps explain the revolutionary nature of Galileo’s objectification of the magnifying glass as an instrument for observation of the night sky was. Without a structured model for scientific inquiry, animal sacrifices, myths, and other cultural artifacts permeated an anthropomorphic and magic view toward nature.[10] From the Neolithic communities to the Babylonians, Egyptians and Greek Philosophy, the observations of the celestial sphere have profoundly intrigued and impacted cultural and societal organizations as humans attempted to comprehend the most subtle and yet profound questions such as “what’s going on around me?”

As previously stated, the sociocultural implications of Galileo’s observations with the telescope dramatically impacted the way the universe was conceived in people’s minds. Influenced by Plato’s ideas of a perfect heaven, Heraclitus proposed the so-called first Solar System Model in the 330 B.C., which was later amended to include the famous epicycles in Ptolemy’s Almagest in the 2nd century. Such geocentric model prevailed as the hegemonic understanding of the universe until the 15th century.[11] Furthermore, Aristotle’s idea of a heavenly spherical, perfect, finite, and unchangeable universe dominated Western cosmology until the 17th century.[12] While Copernicus is responsible for inciting a paradigm shift in his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, libri VI as he proposes a heliocentric model and, therefore, moves humans from the center of the universe, Galileo’s astronomical observations with a telescope in 1610 is also of equal importance. Galileo, therefore, helped debunk the notion of a perfect, unchanged, and eternal universe accepted since Aristotle’s cosmological treatise On The Heavens. As a lever, Galileo’s telescope allowed for a revolutionary questioning of the dominating ideas by the Catholic Church mostly due to the following discoveries: there are dark spots on the Sun, mountains and seas (maria) are all over the Moon; the Milk Way is made of many other Suns; Venus has phases due to its orbit around the Sun; and there are orbiting moons around Jupiter's (known as Galilean moons: Io, Europa, Callisto, Ganymede).[13] In enhancing the human eye using a magnifying glass, these astronomical observations not only allowed us to note the aesthetics of natural phenomena (going against Plato’s perfect universe on philosophical grounds) but also fatally questioned the geocentric model of the Universe as it was insufficient to explain Venus phases and Jupiter’s moons.

From Galileo’s small refractory telescope to the Hubble Space Telescope orbiting only 340 miles above the Earth’s surface, it is obvious that science and technology progressed drastically in the span of merely four centuries. Humans understood the basics of calculus and the gravitational rules in planetary level; mastered the manipulation of complex glasses; developed computers and the World Wide Web; set the foot on the Moon; explored the main bodies in Solar System using robots; understood the human genome, and so many others. Considering artifacts as levers, the scientific enterprise by humans encompasses both “the creating of the object and the object’s recreating of the human being, and it is only because of the second that the first is undertaken.”[14]In projecting sentience out onto the made world and in turn to make sentience itself into a complex living artifact, the function of the telescope for astronomical observation has seduced the world as it helps explore the most daunting questions of our own existence. What is up there in the sky? Why do we exist? Does God exist? Where did the universe come from? Are we alone in the universe? Where do we go to after we die?

For both the pre- and post-telescope era, the never-before-seen objects beyond our corporeal limitations on the surface of Earth changed the way humans objectified nature and our position in it. If Galileo relied on mental experiments, drawings and basic trigonometry in his notes published in the 17th century Sidereus nuncius (The Starry Messenger), the Hubble Space Telescope now depends on computers, a vast range of innovative scientific instruments, thousands of scientists and engineers from all over the globe working remotely and at the same time together on all aspects of the making and operation of the artifact. Were the cultural construction of the universe based exclusively on the human corporeal ability, we would be extremely far from knowing – and studying – what the HST, as humanity’s eyes, allowed us to see in only the span of only four decades: the diversity of far-flung galaxies, formation of other solar systems and exoplanets, the mysteries of dark matter, the collapse of stars into supernovas and black holes, the age of the universe, and several others.

Although the Hubble Telescope was launched in the 1990s, the motivations for its development began about three decades prior to that. With the launch of Sputnik probe as a ‘space age icon’ in late 1950s, the first artificial Earth satellite, the soviets showed that the technology of war could also assume a peaceful use, though one can argue that their intentions were different.[15]  Given the technological impact of the Cold War in an ideologically polarized world, the cultural symbolism enacted by the space race illustrates the idea of a sense of American exceptionalism that is later exploited by the HST. For example, in the paper “When Big Science Fails: The Hubble Space Telescope Flaw and Implications for the Space Program in the Post-Cold War Era,” Dakota Cotton argues that “although Hubble has become a success story for NASA, the history of its development illuminates the growing technical and political complexities of big science projects as well as the civil space program’s inability to extricate itself from its Cold War past.”[16] Therefore, the societal implications in the making of the HST as a civil scientific instrument for humanity certainly reflects its inseparable history from the societal subcultures of the time. That is, one that was rooted in military, political, and economic factors that profoundly shaped the unfolding of the early space race between the Soviet Union and the United States.

Since the Earth formed more than 4 billion years ago, the Sun’s radiation has been the source of energy of all living organisms. In reacting to the Sun’s electromagnetic radiation, the human eye is the threshold between the natural world and the information that is later processed in the brain. Therefore, as the perceptual apparatus of what has often been referred to in philosophy as the ‘noblest sense’, I argue that the human eye is the central corporeal aspect of the HST. It is estimated that the first fossil of an eye date back to the Cambrian period (about 550 million years ago), a period when well-developed optical systems evolved many times.[17] Thus, as pointed out by Richard Gregory, “from the center of the human retina to its periphery we travel back in evolutionary time.” Furthermore, one of the most astonishing aspects of the eye is that it is closely related to the light sensitivity which, in this case, nearly all kinds of living organisms interact with.  On the chapter “Toward a Historical-Materialist Cartography of Human Corporeal Organization: On the Corporeal Construction of Patterns of Human Experiences, Behaviour, and Realities,” it is discussed that the eyes are key in the establishment of a “rich and sophisticated set of experiential patterns that are fundamental to the forms of contents of human consciousness.”[18] Moreover, in the discussion of the bodily organization of primates, the binocular and stereoscopic vision coupled by kinesthetic enabled by the set of eyes are regarded as the most informative of sense, which anatomically modern Homo sapiens inherited. Aside from the outstanding capacity of the human eye in mapping our surroundings, the corporeal condition of our existence limits us from ‘seeing’ what we cannot naturally perceive. As Gregory explains: ‘Only a very narrow band of these frequencies, less than an octave in width, stimulates the eye to give vision and colours. (…) Looked at in this way, we are almost blind’.[19] As an expansion of the human eye, the HST is able to profoundly expand the corporeal limitations in humans and bringing to our consciousness images that otherwise would never be revealed.

While in outer space, the HST interacts with a vastly different set of physical conditions than the ones experienced by our bodies from birth to death. One of the essential aspects that sets it apart from other ground-based telescopes on the Earth’s surface is its orbiting nature; that is, the ability to gravitationally detach itself from the natural conditions lived out by all Homo sapiens grounded on the surface. Considering the long debates over the nature of movements (from Aristotle’s idea of a natural place to Newton’s Principia), it was not until the space race that the idea of an artificial satellite moved away from science fiction to reality. Many consider the prominent British science fiction Arthur C. Clark as one of the most influential proponents of the objectification that a human-made object can be put into orbit, though not the inventor of the concept itself. In a published article in the Wireless World magazine in 1945, Clarke proposed a geostationary satellite communication that would allow world-wide radio coverage for long-distance communication. Referring to his pioneering idea as ‘an immediate post-war research project,’ Clarke predicts that when achieving enough speed in flight outside the Earth’s atmosphere, a rocket would never return to Earth, becoming an “artificial satellite, circling the world forever with no expenditure of power—a second moon, in fact.”[20] Along with the organization of the HST in relation to the eye, the nearly zero gravity nature of its overall structure spinning around the planet Earth every 97 minutes essentially allow us to consider the artifact as an extension of the human eye in outer space; that is, the idea of an orbiting eye that is detached from a biological body. Rather, the HST can also be understood as humanity’s eye that allows us to see the past in order to understand the present and the future. Unlike on the Earth’s surface, the satellite nature of the Hubble as a space telescope enables us to bypass not only light pollution from urban centers but also the atmospheric conditions responsible by either distorting information from outer space or by absorbing certain wavelengths of radiation, like ultraviolet, gamma- and X-rays, before they can reach Earth.[21] Since large exposure to most of this radiation range would be fatal for the stability for the simplest form of DNA structures, the creatively ambition behind the making of the HST reveals the human ability to create artifacts that survive the natural conditions we are evolutionary bounded by.

With the promise of becoming the most powerful telescope ever created by humankind, the Hubble telescope was put into orbit in April 1990, only four years after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. On the night before the launch, NBC TV’s John Chancellor declared that pre-Hubble astronomy was like looking at birds from the bottom of a swimming pool: “what we saw was wavy and murky. Next week, the human eye will climb out of the swimming pool and begin looking at pictures of the universe that are as clear and sharp as an etching… Nothing in space exploration comes even close to the potential of the Hubble Space Telescope.”[22] Lisa Parks from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) asserts that if the communications satellites developed prior to the space telescope helped craft a “global village,” the Hubble ultimately allowed to see, for the first time, of features of the universe that humans were once able to probe only with their imaginations—or not even thought about at all. In looking at the Hubble as an orbiting eye around the planet Earth, it is important to acknowledge how the artifact reflects the transnational and persistent collaborative and creative work among engineers, scientists, and governments from all over the world for the common accumulation of knowledge about the most fundamental questions. The engineering expertise accumulated before and during the decades in the making of Hubble, coupled with a historic and scientific description of the nature of gravitation, not only benefited the scientific community, but also impacted the relationship between the televisual, the digital, and the historic as we observe the images from outer space from our homes.

It was also from the comfort of my home that I became amazed by the HST as a little child. I grew up in the countryside of the State of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Due to the distance from large urban centers, the region of my childhood is well-known for having one of the clearest night skies in Brazil. I remember the sky was so clear at night that it was possible to easily spot the whitish patch of the Milky Way Galaxy during warm summer nights. As far in the past as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by the night sky, and I even chose physics as my major when I started college in Brazil. As a teenager, my aspiration was to become an astronomer one day as I spent countless hours watching the 1980s series Cosmos by Carl Sagan. Since I lived in a rural area, I recall going to school in the morning one day and looking up in the sky, where I immediately recognized Venus due to its bright like no other body in the sky.

As I looked across the morning sky, I saw a relatively bright and grey object moving really fast, and my initial reaction was that it could possibly be an UFO. Due to the superstitious culture embedded in most of my family members, I thought that that object could either be a magical artifact, God, or maybe a sign of intelligent life—or anything that my fertile imagination could allow me to. I did not have a camera to register what I had seen, but I spent the whole day telling people about it. Later that day I read in the news that the ISS, the International Space Station, was supposed to fly over that latitude in Brazil. It was when I found out that the object I observed earlier that morning was actually a satellite. Although the ISS is not a magnifying telescope, it orbits around the planet under the same laws of nature that govern Hubble around the Earth or the Earth around the Sun. Starting that day I became quite driven and curious to understand how that type of object ended up there and what humans had to overcome to make that happen.

Besides HST’s relevance as a scientific mission, some of its discoveries served as a powerful public relations tool for science exploration, attracting civic attention more than any other contemporary astronomical artifact. For example, one of Hubble’s most profound discoveries—with both scientific and civic impact—is epitomized in the highly circulated image known as the Hubble Deep Field (HDF) from 1996 (image 3). While looking at a very small spot on the sky (with an angular size of a tennis ball at a distance of 100 meters) in the constellation of the Ursa Major with an exposition of about 10 days, the HST revealed an astounding photo full of as many as 10,000 galaxies of all kinds, reaching furthest reaches of the universe in space and time. According to NASA, the Deep Field image, a rich tapestry of galaxies, “represents the deepest portrait of the visible universe.”[23] When previously observed by on-ground telescopes, the same tiny region of the sky was largely empty given the magnitude and distance of these objects. With more sophisticated instruments and without atmospheric disturbance, the long-exposition “telescope’s view represents a ‘core sample’ of the cosmos.”[24]


Image 3 – Hubble Deep Field taken in 1996 (NASA/ESA).

On the scientific side, the diversity in the shapes, sizes, and colors of galaxies allowed cosmologists to understand more about how galaxies form and change; thus, expanding the scientific understanding of the cosmologic principle as well as the ongoing effort to describe the origins of space and time. On the civic side, the image popularized among the general public and showed the plethora of an immense number of galaxies, reminding us of the human insignificance in a vast universe, reinforcing Carl Sagan’s popular poem Pale Blue Dot (1994) which beautifully said that “astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience.”[25] On a side note, the aesthetics of this photograph may in itself be considered an artifact that engages with questions on how the visuals hold power in shaping our sensorial experience of the universe.

However, aside from the often awe-inspiring profile of the news media framing surrounding Hubble-related discoveries or the provocative questions about the origins of the universe, the making of the Hubble as a highly sophisticated artifact included a series of scandals and disappointments—before and shortly after it was launched in orbit. Besides the issues concerning budget, schedule, and technical difficulties through its making, the HST as a human-made artifact also underwent an episode known as the “Hubble’s Mirror Flaw.” Once the HST reached orbit, NASA and ESA discovered it had a defective mirror, affecting the focus and clarity of the images.  This caused a public fuss and an embarrassing relationship between the scientific community and the governments, considering the extremely high investment in building the artifact. Since it was unpractical to replace the mirror itself, new instruments were built and installed on Hubble, functioning as a type of glasses for the orbiting eye. Such unprecedented strategy was executed while CNN carried live footage of spacewalking astronauts doing the “eye adjustment.” Upon the successful mechanical intervention as an attempt to fix the spherical aberration in the mirror, The Washington Post reported that Hubble’s “new focus” replaced what once appeared to be “fuzz balls with pictures of deep spaces that allowed us to “almost see forever” (image .[26]


Image 4 -- Galaxy M100 before and after the astronaut mission that fixed the HST (NASA/ESA).


As said by one of NASA’s astronauts at the time, this incident managed to turn Hubble from a national disgrace to the great American comeback story as observed in action Hollywood movies (image 5).[27] Right during that time, astronomer Terence Dickinson insisted that “Hubble’s fixed view was so clear it would rewrite the textbooks.”[28]


Image 5 – Astronauts fixing the instruments that would allow Hubble to see without disturbance (NASA/ESA).

The HST success is also closely related to the role media continue since its launch. Nearly a decade after the HST was launched, a report by the Space Telescope Science Institute, the operation center for telescope, suggested that the “impact of the Hubble mission appears to hold sociological relevance while boosting interest of the public in scientific endeavors.” Additionally, the publication also demonstrated that the “Hubble appears to be a popular symbol of quality, integrity, and the human drive for discovery.”[29] After over 20 years of operation, the images captured by the space telescope continue to permeate across vast areas of human activities: from science textbooks to bedroom posters or from CD cases to magazine covers. Aside from the scientific characters of its iconic images, the sociocultural appropriation of Hubble’s products—often based on the aesthetical appealing – appear to influence the general public in contributing to the understanding of science, inspiring a new generation of thinkers, or in simply appreciating the possibilities enabled by science and technology. As an artifact, it seems that people are constantly fascinated and continuously surprised by the news media revealed by the Hubble as humanity’s eyes. Yet, very few actually seem to be interested in unpacking Hubble as an artifact in itself—an extension of the human eye onto the Earth’s orbit. Considering the current structure of scientific research that is depending on funding from governmental agencies, the impact of the Hubble’s iconic news media also help to get attention and therefore give public interest in supporting the scientific mission. Thus, the media played an essential role in shaping the cultural mindset of the cosmos via the Hubble Telescope. Aside from the scientific background of the images taken by the space telescope, the way that Hubble-related activities are framed reflect a type of scientific uncertainty about our own essential human nature in the universe.

As an orbiting eye, the HST knows about our vulnerable corporeal organization in face of the cosmos. While it knows our vision depends on interaction with the light, it also knows that our vision is limited only to a small portion called visible light, which is just a tiny portion of the all the existing electromagnetic waves that exist in the universe. It knows that the size of our eye does not allow us to collect vast amount of data from distant astronomical objects with fainted lights. It knows that our bodies are gravitationally bounded by planet’s surface, which makes it impossible for us to observe the night sky for more than 12 hours (unless you are in the poles during summer or winter) given the planet’s orbital period of 24-hours. It knows that our corporal size makes it impossible to get away with atmospheric observation if not by launching a space telescope above the clouds. It knows of our reliance on metal and electronics as well as nuclear energy for the development of rockets. It knows our genetic inability to survive in hostile environments beyond the planet. Finally, the Hubble Space Telescope also knows of the deep desire to know about the worlds we inhabit and experience through our senses. It knows that the most basic questions about our existence are dependent on how we look at the past and what is out there to question our existence here—both with the planet and with each other.


In 2019, NASA will launch the James Webb Telescope, often referred as the new Hubble Space Telescope. If Galileo’s artifact capable of zooming 20 times using only 37mm in diameter revolutionized the way humans understood of the universe, and the Hubble’s 2.4 meter in diameter changed cosmology by challenging the nature of space and time, exoplanets, and the Big Bang Theory. Imagine what are the possibilities for the James Webb Telescope (JWST) with a telescope of 6.5 meters in diameter? As an orbiting eye, the HST – and starting next year the JWT (image 6) – knows about our vulnerable corporeal organization in face of the cosmos. While it knows our vision depends on interaction with the light, it also knows that our vision is limited only to a small portion of wavelengths called visible light, which is just a tiny portion of the all the existing electromagnetic waves that exist in the universe. It knows that the size of our eye does not allow us to collect vast amount of data from distant astronomical objects with fainted lights. It knows that our bodies are gravitationally bounded by planet’s surface, which makes it impossible for us to observe the night sky for more than 12 hours (unless you are in the poles during summer or winter) given the planet’s orbital period of 24-hours. It knows that our corporal size makes it impossible to get away with atmospheric observation if not by launching a space telescope above the clouds. It knows of our reliance on metal and electronics as well as nuclear energy for the development of rockets. It knows our genetic inability to survive in hostile environments beyond the planet.

Image 6 – Computer simulation of the type of image that is expected from a Hubble Deep Field-style observation performed with JWST (NASA/ESA).

Finally, the Hubble Space Telescope also knows of the human’s insidious desire to know about the worlds we inhabit and experience through our senses. It knows that the most basic questions about our existence are dependent on how we look at the past of the universe and at the things we find ‘out there’ to question our existence here on Earth. In doing so, our species is able to ponder more solid ethical ways of better living out the short amount of time we have due to the corporeal limitations of our bodies but also how our bodies are a way for the cosmos to know itself.


[1] J. Fracchia, ‘Toward a Historical-Materialist Mapping of Human Corporeal Organization’, p. 40.   

[2] Lallo, Matthew. "Experience with the Hubble Space Telescope: Twenty Years of an Archetype." Space Telescope Science Institute (2009), passim.

[3] "Hubble Essentials." The Telescope - Hubble Essentials. Space Telescope Science Space Institute Accessed April 11, 2018.


[4] "Telescope | Definition of telescope in English by Oxford Dictionaries." Oxford Dictionaries | English. Accessed May 11, 2018.

[5] Dupré, Sven. Galileo, the telescope and the science of opticsin the sixteenth century a case study of instrumental practice in art and science. Gent: Universiteit Gent, 2002, p. 1.

[6] Ibid, passim.

[7] Linton, Michael A. "History of Navigation: A Wikipedia Compilation."

[8] Ibid, passim.

[9] Maxim, Zoia & Szücs-Csillik, Iharka. “Agricultural constellations: Tiberiu Popoviciu Itinerant Seminar of Functional Equations, Approximation and Convexity.” 2003, p. 5-10.

[10] Shombert, James. “A Brief History of Cosmology.” Accessed May 1, 2018. Passim.

[11] Shombert, James. Medieval Cosmology. Accessed May 2nd 4, 2018. Passim.

[12] Kolata, James J. Elementary Cosmology: From Aristotle's Universe to the Big Bang and Beyond. Morgan & Claypool Publishers, 2015, p. 2-1.

[13] Shombert, James. Newtonian Cosmology. Accessed May 1, 2018.

[14] Scarry, Elaine. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985, p. 310.

[15] Mcquaid, Kim. "Sputnik Reconsidered: Image and Reality in the Early Space Age." Canadian Review Of American Studies 37, no. 3 (2007): 371-401.

[16] Cotton, Dakota. "When Big Science Fails: The Hubble Space Telescope Flaw and Implications for the Space Program in the Post-Cold War Era." CU Scholar. Accessed April 26, 2018., p. 5.

[17] Land, Michael F., and Russell D. Fernald. “The evolution of eyes.” Annual review of neuroscience 15, no. 1 (1992): 1-29, passim.

[18]  J. Fracchia, ‘Toward a Historical-Materialist Mapping of Human Corporeal Organization’, p. 23.   

[19] Ibid, p. 26.  

[20] Clarke, Arthur C. Extra-Terrestrial Relays. Accessed April 28, 2018.

[21] The Telescope - Hubble Essentials. STscI: Space Telescope Science Institute. Accessed May 9, 2018.

[22] Parks, Lisa. Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the Televisual. Console-ing Passions. Durham: Duke University Press, 2005, p. 139.


[24] “The Hubble Deep Fields.” ESA/Hubble | ESA/Hubble. Accessed May 1, 2018.

[25] Sagan, Carl. Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. 1st Ed. New York: Random House, 1994.

[26] Parks, Lisa. Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the Televisual. 2005, p. 139.

[27] Dunbar, Brian. “The Camera that Saved Hubble.”NASA. Accessed May 12, 2018.

[28] Parks, Lisa. Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the Televisual. 2005, p. 140.

[29] Christian, C. A. "The Public Impact of the Hubble Space Telescope: A Case Study." In Organizations and Strategies in Astronomy, pp. 203-216. Springer, Dordrecht, 2004, passim.