The Big Picture

huge museum object.jpeg

 

This very large museum artifact resides in a museum near the main international airport in Washington DC. It played a very important role in space research for about 30 years and was involved launching a famous telescope.

 Can you identify what this image is?

 What type of sciences would be associated with launching a telescope? Give reasons for your answer.  

Why is it  a different colour from what you would expect?

Post your comments and I will feedback,

Regards Dr Kathy Mackey at the Smithsonian.

15 thoughts on “The Big Picture

  1. Dear Dr Mackey

    This is the space shuttle. I can tell because of the heat resistance tiles and the hints you gave in your blurb. The telescope you’re referring to is the Hubble space telescope. Quite funnily, the telescope broke by being put in a warehouse for 3 years. The very fragile mirror broke in NASA’s containment. The reason of this is that when Challenger crashed and the space shuttle program was halted for 32 months. Recently the HST has been more or less replaced with the Kepler Space Telescope for the search of Earth-like planets. Astronomers would use such a telescope to see space objects. The reason for it being it in space is so there is no atmosphere in the way to have to see past. The reason the shuttle is shown in this colour is because of the protective heat tiles. They protect it when it comes down to earth and gets extremely hot. These tiles are on the bottom of the craft where people usually see the top white bits.

    1. Hi John ,
      This is a very well researched answer . Keep up the great work . Do you see yourself working as a astrophysicist in the future? Regards Dr Mackey

  2. Dear Dr Mackey,
    For Question 1 I think it is space shuttle that helped carry the Hubble telescope reach for the skies called Endeavour. I know this because I have seen this for myself and I added a lot of knowledge from my research search.
    For Question 2 engineering, mathematics and chemistry.
    For Question 3 the colour is the same.

    1. Hi Matthew,
      Yes – you are correct that this space shuttle helped launch the Hubble telescope.

      Well done on identifying the fields of science. I would also expect that you would need to study physics as well.

      The space shuttle was originally white . The intense heat that the shuttle was exposed to when it re entered the earth’s atmosphere caused the tiles to become blackened. Keep up the great work, Regards Dr Mackey.

  3. Hello Dr Mackey,
    Me and Greer have no idea what it is but think that it is a space shuttle and we think it is a different colour from what you expect because its a different type of metal so it can break its way through the atmosphere easier and more efficiently and so it looks good in a museum. Also we think it is cover for the telescope so it does not break while coming through the atmosphere. As for your second question we believe that you would need engineering for working all the machinery and getting everything in the right place and also mathematics for calculating what would happen if something

    1. Hi Jorja and Greer,
      Yes you are right. It is the space shuttle “Discovery “.
      The museum is very careful to ensure that the colour of the shuttle demonstrates to us what actually happened to it . That is why they left the dirty marks on the tiles so we can understand how intense the heat was as the shuttle re-entered the earth’s atmosphere.

      Well done on your answer to question two . You would also need to understand physics as that covers concepts like speed and force . Keep up the great comments girls!
      Regards Dr Mackey.

  4. Hi Kathy Mackey,

    I believe that the answer to the first question is the Columbia space shuttle.
    I believe that the answer to question 2 is engineers, mathematicians & scientists, this is because it takes planning, maths like diameter & programming etc., etc.
    The answer for Q3 would be that I thought it would be more silver than brownish.

    1. Hi Angeline,
      You are nearly correct. It is a space shuttle – but it is the “Discovery”.
      You are also insightful regarding your answer to question two as you have suggested that a large team of engineers and scientists would work together on such an important project.

      The shuttle was originally bright white. The intense heat that the shuttle was exposed to actually burnt the tiles so that is why they are now a dark dirty brown on this section.
      Kind Regards, Dr Mackey

  5. Hello Dr Kathy

    I think that the answer is that it is a picture of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and was associated by the sciences of engineering, chemistry, mathematics and scientists.
    It is different colours to what we would have expected, because it is not silver like a space shuttle or a rocket or a satellite.

    Thank you for the questions!
    Lou Lou and Chloe

    1. Hi Chloe and Lou Lou ,
      You are close in your answer , but the object is not actually the Hubble Space Telescope , but rather the space shuttle “Discovery” that was used to launch it.
      Yes- a large team of mathematicians , engineers and scientists would have worked together for several years in order for the space shuttle mission to be successful.
      You are correct in identifying that the space shuttle is usually white , but these tiles , which are on the lower front section as quite badly burnt by the intense heat of the shuttle reentering the earth’s atmosphere.
      Kind Regards,
      Dr Kathy

  6. Hello Dr Mackey,
    Me and Greer have no idea what it is but think that it is a space shuttle and we think it is a different colour from what you expect because its a different type of metal so it can break its way through the atmosphere easier and more efficiently and so it looks good in a museum. Also we think it is cover for the telescope so it does not break while coming through the atmosphere. As for your second question we believe that you would need engineering for working all the machinery and getting everything in the right place and also mathematics for calculating what would happen if something different happened from what you expected. Thank you for this task as we have been challenged very much but have enjoyed it alot! :)

  7. hi dr mackey,
    I believe that the answer to Q1 is the hubble space telescope because I identified a few aspects of the picture in a picture of the hubble.
    I believe that aero space engineers, space physicists, an Mathematicians.
    I believe that it is a different colour than you would think because it had been through the earths atmosphere.

    1. Hi Annabelle,
      You are close , but not quite correct. It is actually part of the space shuttle “Discovery” which actually launched the telescope into deep space .
      Your answer to question 2 is terrific as the scientists would certainly needs very specific training in the field of aerospace engineering.
      Well done on your answer to question 3 , as yes the colour of the shuttle tiles have been impacted upon by the heat of the re – entry into the earth’s atmosphere.
      Regards Dr Mackey.

  8. Dear Dr Mackey,
    I have done some research and think the telescope was kept in the centre of the rocket. Also I think the centre of the rocket is what’s in that picture.

    I think physics, mathematics, chemistry, engineering and more would be needed to create the rocket/ telescope because you would have to build it, put an engine in it, put technology in it so it can take photos and connect to earth.

    Here is something else I found;
    It was launched in 1990 on the 24th of April and sent the first image to earth on the 20th of may 1990

    1. Dear Zara,
      Well done on your research as the Hubble was launched from the main section of the space shuttle. A shuttle is different from a rocket as it was re usable and launched several telescopes over a period of years.

      You are correct in identifying that many highly trained scientists would work together to ensure that the shuttle mission was successful.

      Well done on your research about it’s history. Did you also discover that the Hubble moves around the Earth once every 97 minutes?

      Kind Regards
      Dr Mackey

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