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NASA Debates How And When To Kill Hubble Telescope 555

Posted by timothy
from the roasted-on-a-bier-of-tax-dollars dept.
Amy's Robot writes "The Washington Post reports that after 13 years of wear and tear, the Hubble telescope may be on the way out. NASA and some outside scientists have become involved in a heated debate about how and when to end the Hubble telescope program. Keeping Hubble in service until 2020 would require an extra maintenance visit by astronauts at a cost of at least $600 million. Some even worry the batteries could fail by 2010, since the next maintenance visit has been delayed by the Columbia accident and space station priorities. Is it worth maintaining our old friend Hubble, or should NASA let him go out in a blaze of glory?"
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NASA Debates How And When To Kill Hubble Telescope

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  • by grub (11606) * <slashdot@grub.net> on Monday November 17, 2003 @01:46PM (#7494121) Homepage Journal

    "How And When To Kill Hubble"

    Professor Plum will use the candlestick in the library next Tuesday.
  • For the time being. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nocomment (239368) on Monday November 17, 2003 @01:48PM (#7494141) Homepage Journal
    Yes I think hubble should be maintained. At least until we get the Lunar observatory built. Then you will get some cool picures of hubble crashing into the sun.
    • by gorilla (36491)
      Hubble couldn't crash into the sun without getting a signifant boost to get it out of Earth orbit.
    • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Monday November 17, 2003 @01:57PM (#7494240) Homepage
      Lunar observatory? How 'bout the James Webb Space Telescope [nasa.gov], slated to launch on August 2011.
    • At least in production. Being part of the great observatory project, it has specific wavelengths to observe.

      It doesn't have to be the ultimate scope, but we should have a visible light observatory, located outside our atmosphere.
      • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:10PM (#7494407) Homepage
        Why visible light? One of the great advantages of a space-based telescope is it's wonderful resolving power (although, with adaptic optics, ground-based observatories are getting damned impressive), which allows it to observe very deep sky objects. And, due to redshift, the deepest observations that will be made will be in the infrared and far infrared. So, it seems to me that, in order to explore the ancient universe, it makes more sense to have a telescope with a sensitivity centered closer to the infrared end of the spectrum. Moreover, in order to explore objects deep in our own galaxy, or on the other side of the galactic plane, the only option is infrared observations.

        Frankly, IMHO, the obsession with true-color images has more to do with public relations than true science. After all, some of the most interesting, recent discoveries have been in the ultra-long wavelengths (eg, WMAP) and the ultra-short (eg, Chandra).
        • by Cecil (37810) on Monday November 17, 2003 @03:06PM (#7494942) Homepage
          Visible light is important. Not as much for deep sky objects, sure. And probably not even for the next generation or two of space telescopes. But we have not even come close to being able to visually look at even our closest neighboring star systems. We rely on gravity wobbles and visual occultation to find other planets. As our resolving power improves, we will begin to make out these details and it will likely be one of the larger discoveries that have been made this century (assuming it happens this century).

          Physicists probably won't care much about other star systems while they're struggling to unify special relativity and general relativity, but plenty of other branches of science will. So don't dismiss visual wavelengths.
  • Time to start planning Hubbleson, instead of burning money keeping the old one patched up .. in the end we'll have a much better telescope.
    • Re:Next generation (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ericspinder (146776)
      They already are planning it

      The James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2011, is designed to observe the universe in infrared wavelengths required to study the most distant galaxies as they accelerate outward.

      But the problem is...It will not produce the spectacular visible wavelength images for which the Hubble is celebrated.

      So no more great picutures of the universe like Hubble is famous for. I say that it is well worth the 600 mil to keep it up til at least 2020. As inspiration / bac
  • Hubble Slide Show (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Mad Man (166674) on Monday November 17, 2003 @01:49PM (#7494155)
    Cool slide show of Hubble photographs at http://wires.news.com.au/special/mm/030811-hubble. htm [news.com.au]
  • $600 Million (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Professeur Shadoko (230027) on Monday November 17, 2003 @01:49PM (#7494157)
    seems fairly cheap to me, compared to what it would cost to build and launch a new one
    • But when do you draw the line at repairing an old one and building a new state of the art one?
    • Re:$600 Million (Score:5, Informative)

      by Abcd1234 (188840) on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:00PM (#7494280) Homepage
      According to the JWST Website [nasa.gov], the next generation space telescope will cost "$824.8 million". What were you saying about comparative cost, again?
      • Re:$600 Million (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        To build. Not to launch and maintain. And by the way NASA's estimates on the Space Shuttle costs were only off by around 6000%
    • Re:$600 Million (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Zardoz44 (687730)
      Cheaper than $6 Million [space.com]?

      Not the same, but you can't ignore the price.

  • Bring it Back? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ckotchey (184135)
    I can't remember how Hubble was put up there - was it on a shuttle? If so, how feasible is it to just rope the thing in and bring it back? Is it worth the effort to do so and just fix it up, retrofit it, and re-launch, vs. dropping it out of the sky and building a new one?
  • by rarose (36450) <rob@roba[ ]com ['my.' in gap]> on Monday November 17, 2003 @01:49PM (#7494163)
    It'd be great if they could bring it home in the Shuttle and put it in the Smithsonian... I'm certain the museum would hang it from the ceiling!
    • Actually, I think that might not be such a bad idea, assuming the shuttle didn't have a round-trip payload filling up its cargo bay. It'd take a few man-hours to grab and stow, but might be even less expensive than putting up a specialized reentry device to guide it down safely.
      • Come on people, are we self-respecting geeks around here or aren't we? Geeks should know about the space program, considering its significance.

        Geeks would know that the shuttle returning heavy payloads to Earth has been depricated because of safety concerns.

        Hubble isn't going to come back, except in a blaze of glory with the possibility of free Tacos for everyone on the planet.
    • I think the HST is too heavy for the shuttle to bring down. The mass that they can lift is significantly larger than the mass that they can return to Earth.
      • Though I'd think they could purge the tanks and drop all of the consumables to loose a lot of mass, and the reaction wheel assemblies I believe are on the bottom edge where they could be quickly detached in orbit and ditched.
        • by Danse (1026)

          "Sorry Bob, but we're still a little too heavy for reentry. You're gonna have to get out and wait for the next shuttle...

      • by Shadwhawk (561728) on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:21PM (#7494514)
        It isn't, actually. The Hubble weighs about 24,000lbs, and the shuttle can bring down about 43,500.
      • by aallan (68633) <alasdair@babilim.c o . uk> on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:24PM (#7494531) Homepage

        I think the HST is too heavy for the shuttle to bring down. The mass that they can lift is significantly larger than the mass that they can return to Earth.

        Actually it was designed to be brought back to Earth in the shuttle cargo bay for servicing, repair, and later relaunch. However later (not even the most recent) safety add-ons meant that the shuttle is now unable to retrieve it from orbit.

        Al.
    • There's already a full-size model of it in the Air & Space Museum, IIRC. Not the same, I know...
    • by essaunders (469150) on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:03PM (#7494318)
      It looks like they were planning on bringing it back..

      "Before the Columbia accident, NASA intended eventually to have a crew of astronauts maneuver the 43-foot-long telescope into a cargo bay and bring it home for installation in the National Air and Space Museum as an inspiration for future generations. A general unwillingness to subject astronauts to such risks for a museum exhibit, among other things, eliminated that option, Weiler said. "

      but I know... that's from the second page : )
    • by Dawn Keyhotie (3145) on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:03PM (#7494323)
      Actually, that was the initial plan. Including hanging it from the ceiling in the Smithsonian. But now with the Columbia accident, no one wants to put astronauts' lives on the line just to retreive a museum piece.

      I think it would be stupid^H^H^H^H^H^Hoverly optimistic to de-orbit Hubble until the new Webb space telescope is launched and fully tested. After all, how dumb would NASA look if it destroyed a perfectly good piece of equipment, and then its replacement fubared because of a mismatched washer or something.

      And right now, the plan is to do just that, to bring down Hubble before Webb is even launched, to save a few (million) bucks in Hubble operational costs. And the big debate is that everyone with any sense, and any sense of history, is telling them (NASA penny pinchers) that they're crazy.

      "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." Something NASA should consider before taking penny-wise, pound-foolish steps.

      Cheers!

      • Actually, that was the initial plan. Including hanging it from the ceiling in the Smithsonian. But now with the Columbia accident, no one wants to put astronauts' lives on the line just to retreive a museum piece.

        I'd say if the astronauts in question are willing to do it (as I'm sure they are, they are all aware of the risks every time they go up) then it's a moot point.

      • there is a lot of truth to this parent comment.

        In fact, at a meeting in Washington this past summer to debate the future of HST, one of the most interesting presentations was by the editor of Sky and Telescope. He pointed out that despite the optimistic timelines for launching new satellites, not a single one has come in on schedule, and in fact HST itself was delayed for seven years beyond the projected launch date. "few [amateur astronomers] will put any faith in NASA's claim that HST's successor wil
    • Too bad no one else (i.e. Russia, China, or Europe(?)) has anything big enough to go and fetch the Hubble. They'd be willing to take on that task on contract if they could. What would be even more entertaining would be a "finders-keepers" mission. =)

      Wouldn't that be a fun newscast... What are the ownership laws over space objects, anyway? I suppose there must be a treaty of some sort to discourage satellite hijacking. How about abandoned space junk?
  • This may sound idealistic, but whether they choose to prolong the mission or not, NASA should definitely consider bringing back the Hubble. It has tought us so much about the universe, and it's such a great piece of History that it's worth to be displayed in a place like the Smithsonian.

    R,
  • They say they need to free up money to allow a newcommer (next generation orbital telescope) but once they ditch hubble, will they put the saved money into its successor, or another round of taxcuts for the well-to-do?

    Somehow there needs to be a way to gaurentee a next generation before ditching our current technology.

    • I think they'll keep HST running until the Next-Generation Space Telescope (NGST) is up and running. I can forsee that NGST could be designed so it could be deployed from either the Space Shuttle or the ESA Ariane V launch vehicle.

      Given the design of NGST, it might even have less mass than HST because improvements in optics technology will eliminate the need for the long and heavy structure that the HST needed. I wouldn't be surprised that NGST will use adaptive optics for improved focus.
  • Is it possible... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hookedup (630460)
    To push it out of our orbit, and see what kind of images is gets while it heads out of our solar system (and beyond maybe)? Or is is calibrated in such a way that it can only serve its purpose from our orbit?
  • Here's an idea... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MoeMoe (659154) on Monday November 17, 2003 @01:52PM (#7494197)
    Give the "hunk-of-junk" to me... I'm sure I can find many... uses, for it... **cough** SETI@HOME [berkeley.edu] **cough**
    • "I'm sure I can find many... uses, for it... **cough** SETI@HOME **cough**"

      I think I could find some better [ebay.com] uses for it, such as financing a massive Cocaine-smuggling operation. Now all I have to do is look up smuggling in an encyclopedia so I'll know how to go about my brilliant plan. (obligatory Office Space reference)

    • OK. Just as with any other order, you pay for shipping and handling. I'm sure if you foot the bill to send a shuttle up to retrieve it, they'll be happy to let you keep it.

  • Hubble trouble? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Monday November 17, 2003 @01:52PM (#7494202) Journal
    Hubble bubble, toil and trouble...

    Seriously, without knowing how much work is involved, would it be possible for NASA to retreive Hubble with a shuttle after a routine mission had been completed? Hubble has taught us so much it deserves to be retained in a museum somewhere. In a way, it's been as important to astronomers and astrophysicists as perhaps the Wright brothers' flyer was to aviators. It would be a crying shame to let it just burn up in the atmosphere.
  • Is it worth maintaining our old friend Hubble, or should NASA let him go out in a blaze of glory?

    It's already beyond its original expected mission lifetime. It's worth maintaining, if it were just a matter of money and labor and willpower.

    However, the very real issues of the unforeseen logistics hurdles can really shift the equation. Shuttles don't fly this year. Congress is in a cut-taxes, cut-spending mode. Space Station gets the focus of any meager space program priorities in the interim.

  • by G4from128k (686170) on Monday November 17, 2003 @01:53PM (#7494207)
    I wonder if they can keep things going for a while by auctioning off time of the telescope? I doubt they could raise 600 million, but I'd bet they could keep things going for a while.
  • by Kjella (173770) on Monday November 17, 2003 @01:53PM (#7494208) Homepage
    I mean in 13 years, how much is it that the Hubble telescope can see that it hasn't done yet? Is it now mostly "humm has anything changed" or is the exposure time so long and the focus so small that only a small part of the sky has been charted?

    If it's the former, let it die and make a new, stronger and better one and send up. If it's the latter, fix it up and keep it running so it can continue to do its thing.

    Kjella
    • We've been looking at the sky with telescopes for nearly 400 years now, and we're still learning more. While part of this is due to improved instruments, part of it is due to just how much sky there is out there to look at. Even quite old instruments, such as the 1908 Mt Wilson [astronomy.com] 100 inch reflector where Hubble did his work, are still capable of doing significant observations.
  • by amichalo (132545) on Monday November 17, 2003 @01:57PM (#7494247)
    If you haven't read the article, just taking amoment to read the first paragraph really summarizes it to me. I was just a teen when Hubble was launched but the images of space that Hubble gave me were a personal experience, though I have no connection to the industry of space exploration in the slightest.

    To me, it seems like destroying Hubble is not a fitting end to a tool that has built so much for us for over a decade.

    So I wonder, why are devices like Hubble not built to be retooled - built with some type of standard socket connections so batteries, comupters, lenses, etc. could be more easily upgraded by swapping out major units and bolting them together on a frame just like a computer?

    Would a shift in design principles not be the ultimate homage to Hubble, that it would live on as inspiration for developing space exploration devices that were upgradable? ...On the other hand, didn't they think of all these things 13 years ago when the were launching Hubble?
    • by merlin_jim (302773) <James.McCracken@ ... .com minus punct> on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:38PM (#7494657)
      Would a shift in design principles not be the ultimate homage to Hubble, that it would live on as inspiration for developing space exploration devices that were upgradable? ...On the other hand, didn't they think of all these things 13 years ago when the were launching Hubble?

      The problem isn't that they didn't plan for it... the problem is that you have to keep maintenance to a minimum, because it requires real people to go into space at a cost of millions of dollars to do work on an EVA... not the friendliest work environment.

      The second problem is that, while they considered it, the gyros on the telescope failed way before the MTBF rating would indicate. They are presently running on 2 out of the original 6 gyros; the original design was that they could lose any 3 and continue to run; some very smart software was developped before the fourth one was lost so that they could continue to run. Just plain ol' dumb luck that those 4 failed so quickly however. But it loses one more gyro and it's a goner...
  • NASA has become pointless. The purpose of the shuttle fleet is to build the ISS. The purpose of the ISS is to develop ways to keep people alive in space long enough to get to Mars. There are no concrete plans to go to Mars. Going there on chemical fuels will never work very well anyway. Give it up.

    Turn the shuttles over to the USAF, let them launch one of them out of Vandenberg when they have to, and dump the Government-funded civilian space program.

    Further work on space propulsion systems should

  • by RomSteady (533144) on Monday November 17, 2003 @01:58PM (#7494260) Homepage Journal

    Anyone who has seen Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie knows how this will end...

    "Mike killed the Hubble! Mike killed the Hubble!"

  • EBay? (Score:2, Funny)

    by phrostie (121428)
    rather than putting it into the Atmosphere, why not put it up on Ebay.

    one deep space telescope. has seen where no man has seen before.
    used, with millions of miles. as is, where is.

    been refurbed a few times but will let go to
    good new home. procedes will go to new programs.

  • Give it a porn mag, it will go blind in no time.

    Crash it into the moon - we can then finally see if that flag is up there.

    Send some elementary school kids up there. If they don't destroy it by doing the monkey bars on its delicate superstructure, they'll hasten its suicide by circling it and chanting, "One Eye, Got One Eye, One Eye, Got One Eye!"

    Ask it what time it is, then when it looks at its wrist, hit it with a hammer.

    Rename it Old Yeller. Dad'll put it down, while you weep into your dusty wool shirt.

    Just put a Democrat on it! It will be sure to 'mysteriously' crash, probably in a wooded area full of hippies.

  • A way to save it...? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gudlyf (544445) <gudlyf.realistek@com> on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:03PM (#7494317) Homepage Journal
    I wonder if it's at all possible or feasible to figure out a way to attach it to the space station. Then it can be either maintained by crew on the station from time to time (since the space station seems to be where we're keeping or interests/people), or slowly scrapped. There's gotta be a few million $$ of parts that can be reused on that sucker, no?
    • Or develop some multi-billion dollar, space-qualified gimbal mounting.

      Nah, the attitude/orbital requirements for the scope and the station are just too different.

      Plus the vibrations from the space station everytime someone sneezes or touches anything would probably ruin your images.

  • Lets hope that NASA thinks carefully about it. It would have been useful to have Spacelab or Mir up there. Hubble still has a lot of usefulness even at US$ 3/4 B. The science that we have received has been awesome.
  • by HarveyBirdman (627248) on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:04PM (#7494336) Journal
    Link [nasa.gov]

    Therefore a logical decommissioning date would be just after the new scope is up and checks out functionally.

    Has anyone thought about automating this stuff? Make these things modular so unmanned robots can do the servicing and updating. Embed little marker tags into the craft so an approaching repair-bot can find its way around, like those robots that follow colored lines on the floor.

  • NPR Science Friday discussed this back in early August:
    http://www.npr.org/rundowns/rundown.php? p rgId=5&pr gDate=8-Aug-2003

    Also it's been discussed in many journals and periodicals going back several years.

    Personally I think we ought to keep Hubble going until there's another VISIBLE LIGHT optical scope in operation in orbit, or until earth-bound adaptive optics catch up.

    There's another scope due up in 2010, but it'll doubtless be pushed back, and it's an IR scope so it won't do the same kind of scie
  • Does it have to be burned up/crashed into the ocean? Is it not possible to bring it back safely, and put it on display in a museum? I know it would be expensive, but it seems like Hubble has had a significant enough role in astronomy to try and preserve it.
  • Cold Storage Option (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oldstrat (87076) on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:06PM (#7494353) Journal


    There have been several options listed ...

    a - burn it up

    b - bring it back (maybe if the transporter survives the trip)

    c - patch it (and give up other items)

    and myabe others I missed in the convoluted article.

    But one I didn't see in the article was to give it a good hard shove and put it into solar, or translunar orbit.

    If this option were followed there would be a chance that it could be retieved later when bugdets were better, or could serve as a permanent exhibit in an solar space museum if we ever get serious about getting off this rock in a more permanent way.

    The destruction of our orbital heritige is a symptom of our throw away society, the mass has been moved the hardest part of the journey.
    Why waste the effort spent by turning it into terrestrial litter.
    • by JungleBoy (7578) on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:59PM (#7494883)
      b - bring it back (maybe if the transporter survives the trip)

      I believe that until the Colombia crash, NASA had planned on bringing HST back onboard a shuttle. Unfortunately, Colombia was the only orbiter still setup to carry the HST in the cargo bay. The other three orbiters have ISS docking modules in the cargo hold and don't have room for Hubble.

      The JungleBoy
  • by bkc98 (550791) on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:06PM (#7494361)
    If we learned anything from the movie 'Independence Day', we know that any spacecraft can be brought down by a virus. So NASA should just fire up the 'ol Powerbook and upload a virus to bring down Hubble. Problem solved.
  • The Hubble is arguably the most productive space science mission ever flown. The rate of discovery continues to be very high. I would argue that until its replacement, the James Webb Telescope is in place and operational, that the Hubble should continue to be fully used and funded. There is simply no reason to bring it down.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:09PM (#7494390)
    The Hubble Telescope has a 2.4 meter primary mirror (it's a Ritchey-Critien type Cassegrain design). Hubble's successor is currently in development and will have a 6-meter multi-cell primary mirror. This will give the James Webb telescope roughly 25 times the light-gathering ability of Hubble. Improved electronics will let the new telescope resolve objects about 400 times fainter than Hubble.

    What's more, the new telescope will not be in low Earth orbit like Hubble. Instead, it'll reside at the L2 Lagrange point which is about 1.5 million KM from Earth. This means it's a one-shot deal. It has to work right the first time: there won't be any manned repair missions. One of the benefits of sitting at the L2 point is that it can be oriented so that one side always faces the sun...put a good solar shield on that side of the telescope and the rest of the telescope will remain frigid...essentially, you get a cryogenic cooling system for free.

    • A good solar shield covered with some solar cells! What're the options for powering a satellite (not really a satellite anymore if its 1.5 mil KM away) when you can't step out and fix it? Nuclear power, Solar cells, ummmm... nuclear power. Actually you wouldn't need nuclear power, you could just setup a steam powered turbine. As long as the heat is vented far enough from the main circuitry/optics you won't have to worry about slowly cooking your sat to death.

      for those who don't know, the whole point of a nu

  • relative DOD costs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:13PM (#7494430)
    One B-2 Stealth Bomber --> $2.2 Billion USD
    15+ more years of Hubble --> $600 Million USD

    which would contribute more?
  • by Captain Rotundo (165816) on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:15PM (#7494449) Homepage
    Why does the space station take priority ? they should scrap the ISS and start planning new orbital telescopes. most of the real valid research is done with hubble, and the dmand for time on it is outragous. NASA is a failure because it focuses on money sinks that do nothing.
  • by Burdell (228580) on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:18PM (#7494475)
    It was originally planned that at the end of its life, Hubble would be brought back to Earth in a shuttle to be put in a museum. However, the increased inspections and repair plans now being put in place for the shuttle orbiter thermal protection system require the shuttle to go to the space station. There will still probably be one more flight to Hubble, but that will be it most likely.

    We don't want another Skylab, with the whole world wondering where it will crash. Hubble is a rather large satellite (nothing like Skylab, but still quite large), and NASA doesn't want it falling on a populated area. Electronics wear out (especially in the harsh environment of space), batteries die, etc. If it is going to be brought down safely, it must be done while it is still functioning, so the de-orbit can be controlled.

    Even before Columbia, there were only a couple of more Hubble servicing missions planned, before Hubble was decommissioned and replaced by the Webb telescope. The service missions have now been reduced to one, and they'll get everything that they think is reasonably possible out of it, but then they need to give up on Hubble and move on.

  • E-bay... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dr. Zowie (109983) * <slashdot@defPARISorest.org minus city> on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:21PM (#7494515)
    ...need I say more?
  • by elwinc (663074) on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:22PM (#7494517)
    The international space station has been costing about $2.5 billion/year during construction. This includes the $4 or $5 billion cost overrun over the initial $8 billion estimates. This cost is supposed to come down once construction is complete, but I'll wait & see.

    Now I won't claim that the ISS has produced zero science, but I will claim that it's a mighty expensive way to do science. Humans in space may win congressional votes, but they're a pretty expensive way to do research. Remote control machines such as the space telescope, the Mars landers, Voyager, etc. have produced much more science for much less money.

    If we let the ISS drop, there's be plenty of money to keep Hubble running, build its successor, send machines to Pluto, and a ton of other stuff. Unfortunately, the political reality is that Congress and the American public aren't particularly interested in the actual science. But we're willing to spend $2.5 billion per year because we think astronauts are cool!

    • Incorrect (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Teahouse (267087) on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:41PM (#7494686)
      I appreciate your insistence that the only reason to go into space is for scientific knowledge, but I don't think your premise regarding manned space flight is correct.

      All the knowledge we gain (scientific or otherwise) is ultimately tied to the fact that we must eventually leave this world if we are to grow as a species. Eventually, manufacturing, mining, and even our quality of life will depend on this.

      I also don't see how burning up an unused/unfinished $13 billion dollar investment is considered a plus for all the people who have paid for it. I also don't see how you can gauge the scientific potential of the ISS before it's finished and has a full crew dedicated to experimentation and science.

      I agree that we should find a way to increase NASA's budget. I believe there is no reason to down the Hubble if we can service it and it remains useful. I don't believe the way to accomplish either goal is to abandon manned spaceflight, or cannibalize it for other programs. We spend 400 billion on our military every year, surely we can find a way of cannabalizing THAT boondoggle before picking on any of NASA's current budget?

  • by sbaker (47485) on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:33PM (#7494615) Homepage
    Several people here said we should bring the HST back to earth in the shuttle - and lots of other people have explained why it's impossible - I beg to differ.

    The shuttle can haul 63,500lbs of payload up to orbit - but it can only carry 43,500lbs on return to earth. However, the Hubble only weighs 23,500lbs - it's BIG - but it's mostly empty space. So it's NOT impossible.

    However, consider things like retracting those big solar panels - I doubt they were designed to retract under power - there are probably all sorts of other reasons you can't bring it back - but shuttle cargo capacity isn't one of them.

    Personally, I'd vote to build a replacement - get it up to orbit - then either bring Hubble down on the same shuttle - or get rid of it in a controlled crash.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:35PM (#7494627)
    Remember Skylab?

    Yes, Skylab! It was the first manned space station, and it was american! well, anyway, instead of worrying about TODAY and keeping it operational with TODAY's technology, the pie-in-the-sky nasa engineers decided to wait until tomorrow's technology could save them from poor planning.

    Do I see history repeating itself?

    MARK MY WORDS: If they allow Hubble to de-orbit, in order to free up cash to build a new replacement, THERE WILL BE NO REPLACEMENT FOR A VERY LONG TIME. Remember, this is Congress, isn't it? And this is a country filled with half-ignoramus who get all their news from Rupert Murdoch.

    Cue "Dueling Banjos" - "How come we spend all this money on space monkeys when we don't have no jobs down here?"

    Of course, you try to inform these people that NASA has a very small budget - pratically non-existant next to the defense department's big money handout, and that many of the NASA programs are actually at the behest of the Department of Defense, so that their "real budget" for science is very very small.

    Cue "Dueling Banjos", again: "But we don't need no science, we need jobs"

    Of course, this man is retarded - but he actually represents the majority sentiment.

    Now, of course, to you and me, we see the hallmark of a productive society as scientific research. And we are smart enough to know that science for science's sake often has a fantastic impact on everyday lives, etc...

    But, this hayseed has a congressman, who also wants to know why you crazy science people want $600 million just to look at the sky.

    So, keep in mind - if Hubble fails, their will be no timely replacement.
    • there is some truth to this somewhat rambling parent comment.

      In fact, at a meeting in Washington this past summer to debate the future of HST, one of the most interesting presentations was by the editor of Sky and Telescope. He pointed out that despite the optimistic timelines for launching new satellites, not a single one has come in on schedule, and in fact HST itself was delayed for seven years beyond the projected launch date. "few [amateur astronomers] will put any faith in NASA's claim that HST's
  • Hubble's a Bargain (Score:5, Informative)

    by So Called Expert (670571) on Monday November 17, 2003 @02:41PM (#7494680)
    If the USA has the dollars (say, $87 billion) to clean up Iraq, the Hubble is certainly worth repairing for $600 million. This is less than ONE PERCENT of the military's budget JUST FOR IRAQ cleanup. Even in light of newer space telescopes being deployed by 2010, the value to humanity of Hubble is enormous, and unlike our Iraq fiasco, the Hubble benefits Humanity.

    This article sums up the scientific value of Hubble so far: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3115159. stm [bbc.co.uk]

    • Hubble:
    • Captured the "best ever" image of Mars
    • Gave us the age of the Universe
    • Provided proof of black holes
    • Gave first views of star birth
    • Showed how stars die
    • Caught spectacular views of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9's collision with Jupiter
    • Confirmed that quasars are galactic nuclei powered by black holes
    • Gathered evidence that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating
  • Re-entry vehicle? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Whammy666 (589169) on Monday November 17, 2003 @03:03PM (#7494913) Homepage
    What's the possibility of placing Hubble inside a special re-entry vehicle (perhaps a big tube with heat shield) and parachuting it down like the old apollo spacecraft did? It's seems like such a waste to destroy such a significant part of space history.
  • by automatic_jack (181074) on Monday November 17, 2003 @03:27PM (#7495141) Homepage
    Maybe they need another spy satellite.

    Or, they could use it as an offensive weapon. Focus the rays of the sun and fry cities!

    Or perhaps they could use it for some kind of solar collector/intesifier to provide power?
  • by Ranger (1783) on Monday November 17, 2003 @03:38PM (#7495259) Homepage
    I think they should rent time to male college students to look into female student dorm windows or to look down on nude or topless beaches. Imagine the resolution? They'd certainly raise enough cash to keep Hubble going for at least another decade. They could use paypal. Instead of calling it Hubble Space Telescope they could call it the Hubba Hubba Nudiescope!

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