Pick the brains of the experts. If you are not already active in an astronomy society or club, the sales people at the telescope store will be able to guide you to the active societies in your area. Once you have connections with people who have bought telescopes, you can get advice about what works and what to avoid that is more valid than anything you will get from a web article or a salesperson at Wal-Mart. Try before you buy. This is another advantage of going on some field trips with the astronomy club. You can set aside some quality hours with people who know telescopes and have their rigs set up to examine their equipment, learn the key technical aspects, and try them out before you sink money in your own set up. How mobile must your telescope be? The tripod or other accessory decisions will change significantly with a telescope that will live on your deck versus one that you plan to take to many remote locations. Along those lines, how difficult is the set up and break down? How complex is the telescope and will you have trouble with maintenance?
By going out with a group, you can rub elbows with people who know the night sky, can help you learn how to spot the great constellations and how to train your eyes to see the really cool stuff going on over our heads virtually every night. Astronomy is a passion that is shared equally by everyone from children, to college students to serious scholars in the field to even professional astronomers who work at exploring the universe full time. On any given night, you or your child may be sitting next to an award winning professional astronomer who will happily provide a private lesson looking up at the cosmos just for the sheer fun of shared learning. The great thing is that everything we have talked about here costs virtually nothing. You can get started with your love of astronomy and learn as you go so when you are ready to make some investment in equipment, you have learned from others what is just the right thing for you.
All was not always perfect with the telescope and the early pictures were disappointing. After some study NASA discovered that the reason for the early failures was the curvatures of one of the main lenses of the orbiting telescope. We probably could never have kept this intricate piece of equipment operational as well as we have had we not had the Space Shuttle program to give us a tool to implement repairs and improvements to the Hubble. In 1993 a new lens was installed on the Hubble which corrected the problem of picture resolution that was noted in the early operation of the telescope.
Two other repair and upgrade mission have been made to the Hubble since it launched, both of them in 1997 to upgrade older equipment and to retrofit the telescope to extend its useful life through 2010. It’s pretty amazing to think that this scientific and mechanical marvel has been operating now for ten years without maintenance. We can be assured that plans are in the works for NASA to upgrade or replace parts on the Hubble to extend its useful life even further as that 2010 time frame draws closer. It is hard to imagine the science of astronomy or the natural quest for greater knowledge of our universe without the Hubble.