Hubble wins the contest



As part of a 100-year company anniversary celebration, Lockheed Martin ran a Facebook page competition called “Innovation Madness” to see what everyone thought was its most innovative project.

The candidate list is fairly formidable. After all, Lockheed – before the Martin Marietta merger – was the home of Kelly Johnson of Skunk Works fame, who played a leading role in the design of some 40 aircraft. On the list, such icons as America’s first to fly 400 mph (the P-38), the country’s first production jet fighter (the F-80), the first double-sonic fighter (F-104), the Cold War’s first high altitude spy plane (the U-2) and the ultimate speedster/spy plane, the YF-12A/SR-71.

Participants were asked to choose from 32 candidates. They included the Constellation, a gorgeous design from the early days of air travel, when passengers had to get used to engine outs. Along that line of reasoning are workhorses like the C-130, C-5 and F-16 and few more recent programs like the F-35 (a bit early to see how it turns out) and the first stealth fighter, the F-117.

Frankly, some candidates fall into the not very glamorous but oh-so-important category, such as the company’s global positioning satellite series and synthetic aperture radars. There was even a nomination for digital fingerprinting, which maybe gets the hearts of cops and prosecutors beating a bit faster but is hardly as cool as a P-38 or U-2.

There was also some neat stuff done in space, including the MMU – the manned maneuvering unit – and Mars Phoenix Lander.

But the clear winner was the Hubble Space Telescope, launched by the shuttle in 1990 and still producing headlines. Just this month came its images of the furthest supernova yet observed.

Since going into operation, the 12.5 ton orbiting observatory has taken over a million exposures, observed more than 33,000 astronomical targets and produced data published in more than 8,500 scientific papers.

Plus it’s images are one of the all-time favorites for space art.

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