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DEJECTED ASTRONOMERS ROLL WITH PUNCH, SAY STARS WILL STILL BE THERE

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Dejected astronomers, frustrated by the delayed launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, stoically endured the latest in a series of setbacks, saying "the stars will be there tomorrow."

"I feel totally spent," said Edward Weiler, an astronomer with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in Washington. "I'm pretty dead right now."Many astronomers have literally been waiting their careers for the telescope's launch.

"The emotional roller coaster we're all on is bad. This morning we came in not thinking we'd have a chance to launch because the forecast was for rain. And then the sun came out around 7 o'clock and everybody's emotions got really high. Countdown was going perfect so we were getting higher and higher," said a red-eyed Weiler, puffing on a cigarette in a press building after the delay.

"You get within four mintues and boom, you know. So the emotions go right back down. And a lot of us, especially scientists, have been not getting a lot sleep, because we're, you know, excited.

"And two or three or four days without too much sleep and the ups and downs of the roller coaster really get to you," he said. "Mental exhaustion, emotional exhaustion is much worse than physical exhausion in my mind. It just totally debilitates you."

Weiler and other scientists tried to keep the delay in perspective, stressing that getting the $1.5 billion telescope safely into orbit 380 miles above Earth's surface was the most important consideration.

"I'd rather we do this one right. So if there's a real problem we'll just have to wait. The stars will be there tomorrow. We've waited 10 or 12 years. We can wait another day, I guess," he said.

Eric Chaisson, a senior scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, agreed. "In comparison with a universe that's 15 billion years old, what's a delay of 48 hours?"