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NASA to Reconsider Hubble Decision 331

Posted by michael
from the measure-twice-cut-once dept.
blamanj writes "It's not dead yet. With cries of opposition coming in from all quarters, NASA has decided to review its earlier decision. Adm. Hal Gehman, chairman of the board that investigated the Columbia shuttle breakup last year, will 'review the (Hubble) matter and offer his unique perspective,' NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said"
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NASA to Reconsider Hubble Decision

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  • by banzai75 (310300) on Friday January 30, 2004 @10:42AM (#8134486)
    At the very least, they should turn it around and point it at some nude beaches.
  • by Pakaran2 (138209) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (rennurdniw)> on Friday January 30, 2004 @10:43AM (#8134496)
    He had cited the risk to the astronauts on a Hubble mission and President Bush (news - web sites)'s plans to send humans to the moon, Mars and beyond as the reason for NASA's change of focus.


    Attention Martians: If you see a gentleman in a suit with a texas accent, and slightly funny ears, landing, be sure to send him back - he wants your oil!
  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Friday January 30, 2004 @10:43AM (#8134500) Homepage Journal
    The Yahoo! article points to savethehubble.com [savethehubble.com], owned by a Brazilian fan of the telescope. He's posted some of the comments he's received, including a rant from a visitor who takes Hubble proponents to task for "not telling the full story" about the safety concerns of launching another shuttle.

    The site owner's response may show where future advances in space will occur.
    Brazil's NGP is about 8% that of US but I guess we could spare some. Nasa has one Brazilian astronaut who, I bet, will go up anytime - as will any american. Last year
    21 Brazilian technicians died in an explosion [space.com] while working on our rocket. The program is still on.
    It looks like it's boiling down to a (deceptively) simple question: will you risk your life for your dreams? More importantly: will your country allow you to take that risk?

    Brazil's answer seems to be, "yes". Meanwhile, here in the US, we're too busy killing ourselves in our SUVs [thedetroitproject.com]. And don't get me started on 500+ dead and hundreds of $billions spent on the other side of own ball of rock!
    • by Zeinfeld (263942) on Friday January 30, 2004 @11:46AM (#8135121) Homepage
      It looks like it's boiling down to a (deceptively) simple question: will you risk your life for your dreams? More importantly: will your country allow you to take that risk?

      If we can't even justify servicing Hubble that means that the shuttle program is now completely dead. There is no other mission that could possibly be as important scientifically.

      Of course everyone knows that the shuttle is dead, 14 dead people in two separate disasters mean that it won't be going back. But instead of facing up to that fact NASA will continue to burn money on projects that are meant to disguise the fact. The announcement of the Mars mission being an example, Bush announced the Mars mission as a way to cover the fact that shuttle was going to be all but terminated. The problem is that 'all but' part. Don't want to end all those jobs with contractors making juicy donations to the GOP, particularly not Halliburton.

      There is a real failure of leadership here. Instead of saying it as it is we have a Karl Rove PR job that in effect will cost the tax payer a couple of billion dollars in futile attempts to fix a shuttle that no President is ever going to let fly again.

      As for Hubble, the cheapest solution is probably to deorbit the current one into an ocean and send up a completely new Hubble. We already have a mirror for the thing, and it does not have spherical abberation defect. Kodak made a standby mirror for use in tests that they did not want to risk the real one on. Slap on the backups of the backups for the detection equipment and you can probably build Hubble II for $200 mil or so

    • It looks like it's boiling down to a (deceptively) simple question: will you risk your life for your dreams? More importantly: will your country allow you to take that risk?

      The ironic thing is that O'Keefe (appointed by Bush, keep in mind) said he won't risk another Hubble servicing mission, and will instead focus on the Mars mission.

      The ironic thing, though, is that the manned Mars mission is way way more risky than servicing Hubble.

      Luckily Senator Mikulski (Maryland, Democrat) has been pushing O'Kee

  • I dont understand (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Friday January 30, 2004 @10:44AM (#8134516) Homepage Journal
    Maybe it is just me, but I don't understand the point of abandoning a space project and crashing it into the earth. Why not push it out to space a little more... to somewhat a safe distance, and GIVE it to someone, like a school, or something. Im sure SOMEONE can put things like this, or a SPACE STATION to good use. Maybe if it isnt even in the immediate future, I think there is plenty of empty space out there, that we can even park them anywhere. Even if that is orbiting the moon... and if it gets destroyed, there will be no issue
    • Only the space shuttle can push the Hubble out.
      • Re:I dont understand (Score:3, Informative)

        by dtolman (688781)
        Only the space shuttle can push the Hubble out. Not true. An unmanned mission could boost its orbit (NASA was already considering an unmanned mission to de-orbit the HST - no reason it couldn't boost it instead). The shuttle is just the only vehicle that can repair any damaged parts, and upgrade components...
    • Re:I dont understand (Score:3, Informative)

      by Pakaran2 (138209)
      It takes energy to boost things into higher orbits - what's more, it takes fuel. And that, right now, means a shuttle needs to stop by and give the Hubble a little nudge every now and then (the same with the ISS). Communications satellites orbit much higher, so they face less drag, and they're generally considered disposable in any event, since any repair hardware would cost more to launch than a complete new satellite.
      • ISS: not true; it does have a set of thrusters and some manoeuvering capability, albeit the bulk of the pushes are done using Progress modules.

        You do need to send something up regularly to resupply the ISS in various fluids, including fuel.

        I remember in the old Shuttle-Mir days, how they actually had to LOWER Mir's orbit so that the shuttle would usefully be able to rendezvous...
    • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Friday January 30, 2004 @11:01AM (#8134699) Homepage Journal
      Maybe it is just me, but I don't understand the point of abandoning a space project and crashing it into the earth. Why not push it out to space a little more...

      The concept seems so simple, but the reality is much more complex. IANARS (I am not a rocket scientist), but orbital mechanics just don't work at all like you're used to things working on earth (or in Star [Trek|Wars]).

      For one thing, if you give an orbiting object a push "up", that doesn't send it away from the planet! It just puts it in a higher orbit, and probably an elliptical one at that. An ellipse (oval) seems fine, but the Earth probably is at a focus, not the "center". If you've lowered the close point (perigee?) into the atmosphere, you've got big trouble.

      Hubble simply doesn't have the sort of thruster that could boost it into a higher, more stable orbit. There are proposals to strap on a booster to do that job, but you've either got to send someone up to attach it, or find a foolproof way of doing it robotically. Remember, Hubble wasn't designed to be reboosted by anything but the shuttle!

      And things go wrong -- remember the time the Shuttle crew had to build a flyswatter-looking thing to flip a switch on a satellite they'd just launched. More recently, of course, there's Mars, the Ship-Eating Planet.
      • Orbits (Score:3, Informative)

        IANARS either but here goes: If you could attach a booster to Hubble you could put it into a higher orbit. If you boost in the direction of the orbit you will get a higher apogee (highest point in an eliptical orbit) You will always return to the point where you fired your engines, so a second burn is needed at apogee to make the orbit less elipitical, and this raises the perigee (lowest point in the orbit). Firing the booster in the direction of orbit will never lower the perigee.

        IIRC they were conside
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I think they should continue to service the Hubble, at least until its replacement is online. However, at some point it will have to be abandoned as components fail. When it comes time to abandon it, there are a few options:

      1) Let it return to the Earth. Probably the cheapest possible option.

      2) Spend money and risk lives to push it farther out into space, possibly into Lunar orbit. This means that when it breaks down, it cannot be repaired because we do not have a system of getting people to it reliably.
    • by Croaker (10633) on Friday January 30, 2004 @11:06AM (#8134754)
      With just one or two spare gyros, I doubt any group would be able to use the Hubble for very long. After the gyros give out, you'll have a very large hunk of hardware travelling at thousands of miles per hour that's completely out of control. Even in orbit, with less stuff to crash into, that's a Really Really Bad Thing. Boosting hubble out to a permenent orbit (or at least out to one that would last 50 years or so until we would presumably have craft more capable of either fetching it or enshrining it) would be a huge cost. We have nothing on the shelf to do it now, and it would be cheaper to just dump the thing into the ocean. What I think we should be developing, in addition to a shuttle replacement, is robotic repair vehicles that we could use in case of a backup, or in cases of hardware that we really don't want people risking their lives for. Hubble, certainly, has intrinsic and sentimental value that people would be willing to take a risk to save. Somehow, I sort of doubt anyone wants to risk their lives repairing generic communications satillite #5 so soccer moms can continue to yak on their cell phones while causing mayhem in their SUVs. That means that we'd have to design satillites for easy repair using robots (more modular, easier access, etc.) Modularity probably wouldn't be a bad thing, anyhow. I suspect if we can develop robots that can (mostly, sorta) work on Mars, we can develop ones for earth orbit that can swap in and out some modules.
      • is there any value in retrieving the dead gyros for analysis on why they failed? and how to improve the design for future projects?
      • by Dammital (220641)

        I sort of doubt anyone wants to risk their lives repairing generic communications satillite #5 so soccer moms can continue to yak on their cell phones

        If you put out a help-wanted ad for a comsat repair guy today, you'd have a thousand applicants by noon. There are people who would give everything for the privilege of taking a one way trip to Mars [dickstaub.com]. Just because you wouldn't risk eating space fixing a satellite doesn't mean that others wouldn't.

        The world is full of people that do risky things for a liv

      • Re:I dont understand (Score:4, Informative)

        by Sargent1 (124354) on Friday January 30, 2004 @12:20PM (#8135451)

        What I think we should be developing, in addition to a shuttle replacement, is robotic repair vehicles that we could use in case of a backup, or in cases of hardware that we really don't want people risking their lives for.

        We're working on technologies for that right now, through things like NASA's Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology mission [nasa.gov] and DARPA's Orbital Express program [darpa.mil]. Right now we don't have good sensors for bringing two crafts together under robotic or tele-robotic control. With luck, we'll have them working and working well in the very near future.

        And yeah, I am a rocket scientist.

    • by jskiff (746548)
      IIRC, the Hubble is on a completely different orbital plane than the ISS, and NASA is now taking the approach that once the shuttle launches, it will always be in a close enough orbit to the ISS that they could dock there in an emergency.

      It's not possible to carry the amount of fuel it would take to reach both the ISS and Hubble on the current shuttle.

      Off Topic: I just finished watching HBO's "From the Earth to the Moon" miniseries that they produced a few years back. It was enlightening, inspiring, an
  • Thank God (Score:5, Informative)

    by purduephotog (218304) <.hirsch. .at. .inorbit.com.> on Friday January 30, 2004 @10:44AM (#8134521) Homepage Journal
    Hubble gave us a new perspective on what it means to feel small and insignificant in the universe. Take a look at all the images it has produced- I've downloaded many and had them dumped to AgX paper so I can hang them up on the wall.

    Hell, just click over to the hubble site here http://hubble.nasa.gov/image-gallery/ [nasa.gov] and you'll see star formation.

    Just don't take away the tool that has cleaned a small bit of grease off the window to the universe and let us see what's out there. We need more photos to help 'instruct' some people down here that already are too big for their own good.
  • by dtolman (688781) <dtolman@yahoo.com> on Friday January 30, 2004 @10:45AM (#8134528) Homepage
    Without the shuttle to replace the failing gyro's onboard the Hubble, their isn't much that NASA can do, besides boost its orbit... Pretty much their choices are: -reconsider shuttle usage -ask the Russians to help with a manned mission (would need to send up a capsule, and something to hold the paylod - Soyuz is too small to hold all the replacement parts and astronauts) -come up with an unmanned mission to boost the orbit (this still wouldn't address failing gyros and other critical parts wearing out)
    • Sure there is. Remote controlled robots... Hell, they are used to repair deep ocean communication lines and such, explore wrecked ships, and, with the exception of the recent hardware/software issues, have been remote controlled on planets several hundred million miles away for scientific research.

      You would think it would be child's play for NASA to send up a pair of remote controlled robots in a simple freight rocket (i.e. Arienne or similar), boost them into proximity, bring them over to Hubble, and pe
      • by dtolman (688781) <dtolman@yahoo.com> on Friday January 30, 2004 @11:02AM (#8134709) Homepage
        You would think it would be child's play for NASA to send up a pair of remote controlled robots in a simple freight rocket (i.e. Arienne or similar), boost them into proximity, bring them over to Hubble, and perform the repairs remotely.

        Not so sure about that - a typical hubble repair mission involved about 5 days each with 8-10 hours of spacewalks. It also required a lot of fine motor control (they need to get into some tight spaces), and a big bag of various tools.

        As much as I wish NASA could create robots like these and send them up... they would need to pretty much design these robots from scratch.

        Since they would need to be constructed and programmed within the next 4 years or so - thats probably not in the realm of feasibilty.

      • The Hubble's orbital period is 96 minutes. Last I checked, the ocean is fairly sedentary. Your remote repair would be kind of tricky. Not saying it couldn't be done, but I wouldn't call it child's play.

    • The Russians could have a Soyuz on the pad nearly ready to go. If the shuttle has another problem, they can launch a rescue mission.

      If the shuttle lands safely, send the Soyuz up to the ISS.
  • Cost ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by peterprior (319967) on Friday January 30, 2004 @10:46AM (#8134530)
    With the cost of sending things to mars, and George bush all in "I'm happy spending truckloads of money" mood, I'm sure a few million $ to spend on keeping hubble operational could be found.

    Hell, if they turn it round to face us, they could use to to find terrorists and stick it on the war against terror budget ;)
    • I'm sure a few million $ to spend on keeping hubble operational could be found.

      That's the problem though. In order to keep Hubble operational they need shuttle launches which at $1Bn a pop are not exactly a minor blip on the balance sheet. Plus of course George wants to spend that money on his daring bid for re-election^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^HMars instead. Of course, I'll believe that when I see it.

      Hell, if they turn it round to face us, they could use to to find terrorists and stick it on the war ag
      • The figure is more like $300 million. Still not cheap, but a lot less than a billion...

        (http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/codea/codeae/docu me ntc.html)
        • Is that truly the full cost, or just the cost of the launch itself? I thought I read somewhere that when you factor in the cost of refurbishing and repairing the launch vehicle post-mission that the true cost was closer to $1Bn? Of course, without some extensive Googling I've got absolutely nothing concrete to support my argument with, so I'm more than happy to go with your figure :)
    • O'Keefe, not Bush (Score:4, Interesting)

      by kippy (416183) on Friday January 30, 2004 @11:32AM (#8134987)
      This wasn't Bush's call. This was NASA trying to appear "decisive" in implementing the new space push. Mismanagement on their part as usual. Don't be so dismissive of it either. If we do establish a presence on the Moon, we'll be able to build a telescope that will make Hubble look like a 25-cent plastic magnifying glass.
  • by martinwallgren (684341) on Friday January 30, 2004 @10:46AM (#8134536)
    Well, if they don't want it, can I have it? I only have one tree in the back so it would be nice to tie a hammock to.

  • If they decide to not continue operating the Hubble it'd be nice to see it in the Smithsonian or on loan to other museums. Having that unique piece of equipment within arms reach of kids may give them the spark to pursue a career in science or at least make them appreciate it.

    A phoney mock-up won't do, it have the real thing there: pits, warts and all. One of my earliest museum memories (very early 70's?) from our provincial museum [manitobamuseum.mb.ca] was "Sputnik" on display. I remember being in awe of it until my mom tol
    • Uh.... (Score:2, Funny)

      by HarveyBirdman (627248)
      it'd be nice to see it in the Smithsonian

      Wouldn't the risk and cost of safely returning it to Earth be far greater than just going and maintaining it?

      I remember being in awe of it until my mom told me it wasn't the real Sputnik. It was a let down, like realizing Santa isn't real.

      Sorry, Virginia. No Santy Claus. And no billion dollar operation to get the Hubble back to Earth to assuage your severe childhood trauma.

      And I hate to break it to you, but most of the dinosaur skeletons on actual display ar

    • My kids got to go inside a real Soyuz back in 1979--I don't think they've ever forgotten the experience. The problem with the Hubble is that the reliability of the Shuttle isn't that great. At least the crew would be able to inspect the shield before reentry. Bring back the Apollo capsules! (We have a chunk of the Apollo 13 heat shield at the house--my father-in-law did the engineering.)
    • Bring it down

      HOW?

      Do you know what you're talking about?

      An object can be brought down from space in two ways. On its own or as cargo.

      On its own, the telescope it would survive reentry about as well as you would. As in burnt to crisp.

      As far as being cargo is concerned - the problem with Hubble is that nobody can go up to service it which means it will stop working it. If nobody can go up to, that means nobody can bring it down.

      I won't even going into how bringing something down from space as cargo is a
    • The plan always was to bring HST back down to Earth and put it in the Smithsonian. So I was very confused about why they started talking about deorbiting it in the more destructive way about a year ago. Then a fellow astronomer told me that that is no longer possible. The only shuttle that had a large enough bay to carry it (into orbit or back down again) was Colombia. That's no longer a possibility, obviously.

      So as much as I agree with your sentiment, I think I can understand the reasons for the decis
  • Come on now (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 30, 2004 @10:49AM (#8134564)
    Their previous decision may have been unpopular, but this is ridiculous. NASA needs to learn how to make a game-plan and stand by it, rather than trying to do everything in a really half-assed way. Plus, if they had waited a bit longer, I think they might have seen some interesting proposals on Hubble's future come crawling out of the woodwork from the private sector. Private investment and innovation in space technology is something NASA definitely needs to encourage rather than trample on in the years ahead.

    AC.
    • Private investment and innovation in space technology is something NASA definitely needs to encourage rather than trample on in the years ahead.

      I agree completely, but I doubt you'll see that sort of encouragement from NASA anytime soon. NASA, like every other large government organization, is a bureaucracy whose first priority is its own continued survival. Encouraging private business to invest in space travel and space exploitation would render NASA irrelevant in no time flat--not a good propositio

  • hubble gone? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dkode (517172) on Friday January 30, 2004 @10:49AM (#8134566) Homepage
    I think it's ironic that whenever NASA gets something working correctly, they choose not to continue servicing a peice of equipment that has brought back some amazing images.

    One of my most favorite hobbies is looking at images brought back from the hubble on a friday night since I have no life outside of /.!
  • by BoldAC (735721) on Friday January 30, 2004 @10:51AM (#8134585)
    Legos decided to get free press by saying they were going to stop creating Mindstorm legos. This got a lot of people up-in-arms and they started spilling the wonders of Mindstorm everywhere. Then lego states that they have decided not to stop making them. What free advertising!

    I feel that NASA has used the same technique here. The general population supports NASA but it's hard to get the people to publically stand for NASA's support. By saying that they are scrapping the Hubble, they found a way to stimulate the public into lobbying for the program.

    Way to go NASA! Marketing brillance!

    AC
    • Actually this is a good point, wether or not it was NASA's intention is debateable. Personally I have no problem lobbying for NASA and any other high tech goverment agencies.
  • by Pragmatix (688158) on Friday January 30, 2004 @10:51AM (#8134586)
    Scientists at NASA have decided to keep the aging Hubble Telescope around for a little while longer. In a joint marketing effort with 'Booble', the telescope will be turned around to face the earth and used in the serious business of finding more content for the upstart pr0n search engine. One NASA Scientist has been quoted saying, "Before this opportunity we searched through space for heavenly bodies. Is it not HIGH time we search for heavenly bodies at home?"
  • by Eccles (932) on Friday January 30, 2004 @10:51AM (#8134595) Journal
    It's possible that some of the decision makers at NASA may have expected (or at least hoped for) this sort of reaction. If you want to boost your funding, propose cutting an expensive but popular program, in the hopes that you'll get an outcry and support for budget increases.

    (I'm not complaining if this was intentional, mind you; I'm just congratulating them on their clever strategy if it was.)

    How much would keeping the Hubble active cost compared to some of the proposed massively powerful earthbound scopes, anyway? Given the choice, I'd probably go for buying the OWL or the like rather than the Hubble if the costs are similar.
    • I had similar suspicions, but there are aspects about it that make me think NASA is not playing some tricky political game:

      1 - There was no noticable reaction from the Bush administration or Congress about the news that the Hubble mission would be cancelled.

      2 - If you're going to raise an outcry for more budget increases, shouldn't you keep up the pressure until the new budget is created? The time between outcry and decision to re-evalute the Hubble mission was very short; it seems like more of an interna
  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday January 30, 2004 @10:52AM (#8134601)
    NASA was planning only Space Station compatible orbits as one of the safety mechanisms for the shuttles. The Hubble is in a very different orbit, with inadequate fuel to reach the Space Station in case of trouble.
    On the other hand, the Hubbe is arguably the most successful astronomical project ever conducted and NASAs second most successful project after the moon landing.
    • by TrollBridge (550878) on Friday January 30, 2004 @11:05AM (#8134746) Homepage Journal
      YES!! YES!!!

      The answer had always better be YES when it comes to scientific research and exploration. If the answer was NO, we'd still think the world was flat, if we'd even exist at all.

    • NASA was planning only Space Station compatible orbits as one of the safety mechanisms

      AHA! so why not boost Hubble up to the space station's orbit? Then, when the ISS astronauts get all their leaks [wired.com] plugged, they can participate in some real science.

      Note, this suggestion isn't original; I think Bob Parks made it somewhere in What's New. [aps.org]

      Tooting my own horn dept: as I said here, [slashdot.org] Bush's Mars plan is wildly underfunded, and that unless there's serious funding the Mars plan is at best a publicity s

      • I always wondered why so many spacecraft get burned up in the athmosphere after they are no longer useful. I mean considering how expensive it is to get this stuff up into orbit, wouldn't it be better to boost it higher and save it for later scavanging? I realize they toss them into the ocean to make sure they don't plunk down on some city later, but is it really beyond our capabilities to boost these things out into a safe long-term orbit?
    • Exactly! Senator Mikulski (D, MD) just spoke at Space Telescope Science Institute today, and was pointing out these items.

      Hubble is the most successful of NASA's programs since the Apollo missions. And it's not just being used in USA, but the data is being used/analyzed by people all around the world. It's freely available (after a 1 year period that the PI has exclusive access to it) and astronomers from Pakistan to Brazil have been using it.

      The factor O'Keefe keeps mentioning is safety. But the ir

  • by SkArcher (676201) on Friday January 30, 2004 @10:53AM (#8134612) Journal
    This guy is military - somebody quick, write up a proposal on how Hubble can be adapted to function as an orbital death laser.
  • by nphillips (321320) on Friday January 30, 2004 @10:57AM (#8134671)
    Here are a coulpe links to articles:

    From today's NY Times:
    [nytimes.com]
    NASA Chief Affirms Stand on Canceling Hubble Mission

    Also,
    O'Keefe has sent a second letter (dated Jan. 28) [skyandtelescope.com] to Senator Mikulski.
  • by shuz (706678) on Friday January 30, 2004 @10:59AM (#8134678) Homepage Journal
    The earliest time that the telescope would fall to earth was 2007 correct? That means were have at least 3 years to build, test, and launch a mission to save it. I believe the science community at large would agree with me that this telescope will not go down without a serious fight. On a slight side note. I have noticed that tech issues, other then cs outsourcing to india, have not been discussed much in the US's presidential races so far. Personally I am upset that politicians think that welfare, tax reform, and social security are more important then the advancement of our society. Along with making our voices heard for the Hubble we as a scientific and technical community need to let our voices be heard that all our issues are just as, if not more, important then the common problems that face our society.
    • I think science is awesome and great and such too, but things like welfare, tax reform, and social security are also parts of the advancement of our society. Whether or not they're successfully implemented is debatable, but that doesn't mean they aren't important to furthering the human race. Systems of government and economic policies are just as big a part of our existence as is science. Society is far more than what we know, it's how we live.
  • Advice (Score:5, Insightful)

    by superdan2k (135614) on Friday January 30, 2004 @11:02AM (#8134705) Homepage Journal
    Adm. Hal Gehman would do well to think of this in military terms: do you really want to give up your best intelligence-gathering source based on the promise from the government that the funds will be available for a new one three years after you give it up?

    As a former intel geek myself, I'd say the answer is a resounding "no"... Pay the extra money to keep my current source while you build and deploy a new one for me to use.
    • Re:Advice (Score:3, Interesting)

      by demachina (71715)
      I really doubt Hubble is used for intelligence work, at least very often, though it probably could be in a pinch. I doubt the Hubble control center or staff is setup or cleared to do serious classified work. Hubble sure wont be any use for spying if its gyros degrade further since spy sattelites need to do a lot of manuevering and pointing.

      The NRO has its own really big telescopes which are specificly designed to look at the earth, manuever and point. They are called KH-11 or Keyhole. On the other hand
  • One minute a multi-billion dollar project is cancelled, the next it's not.

    Makes me wonder exactly how seriously the consider ANY decision they make.
  • by zeux (129034) * on Friday January 30, 2004 @11:06AM (#8134756)
    Well, IIRC, ESA participated in the financing of Hubble [aerospace-technology.com]. I think it wasn't a lot of money but still, does ESA have something to say about the future of Hubble ?
    • "Current plans for financing NGST foresee a possible ESA participation at the 15% level -- as with the HST." (here [spacedaily.com])

      It seems ESA participated for 15% in HST ! I guess they should have their word on Hubble future.
  • by photonic (584757) on Friday January 30, 2004 @11:11AM (#8134797)
    Although I am probably a bigger space freak than most of you and really like what Hubble did, I can imagine some scenarios that would favor ditching Hubble. Why not skip all future Shuttle missions (skipped anyhow for safety reasons) and possibly also the booster add-on that was discussed recently. Imagine how much you can build with that money using modern technology. Remember, Hubble was designed in the seventies, built in the eighties and then left to rot for some years in a cleanroom. It has one big heavy mirror and was designed to be transported and serviced by the shuttle. Note that a typical shuttle launch costs > 600M$. A remote controlled rocket pack that attaches to Hubble wouldn't be cheap either.

    Now think what you could build with that money in todays technology. I would suggest reusing some of the detectors designed for the next service mission. Use a modern light-weight mirror. No options for repear in space, just launch and forget. If it blows up, build another one. Mightbe be really modest in your goals, don't go for a design that is 10 times better than hubble, but try to equal it with a mirror of 1.5 - 2 meter. I don't know the exact number, but i believe SIRTF [caltech.edu] was built for something between 0.5 and 1B$. I would guess this could be done for less than 1B$ within 3 years to close the gap till NGST [nasa.gov] is built.

    • by wass (72082) on Friday January 30, 2004 @01:37PM (#8136372)
      I would guess this could be done for less than 1B$ within 3 years to close the gap till NGST is built.

      Uggh, this fact doesn't seem to be sinking in here on /.

      NGST is infrared, just like SIRTF. After Hubble's demise, there will be a serious gap in the spectrum available to space-based observatories (SIRTF/JWST for IR, FUSE for far-UV, Chandra for X-Ray). But no optical wavelengths.

      At this point someone usually mentions that ground-based adaptive optics can produce image resolution comparable to Hubble. This ignores two factors.

      • ground-based adaptive optic systems cannot take the stable long-term imaging integration data that Hubble can.
      • ground-based adaptive optic systems do not produce good spectral data due to emission/absorption spectra interference in the atmosphere.
      Summary - cancelling Hubble will leave a serious gap in astronomical science for at least 1-2 decades.

      One shouldn't consider killing Hubble in favor of JWST, but look at the whole picture and see if this scientific gap of killing Hubble is worth the price savings and added safety of not servicing it. IMHO, the answer is no.


    • and possibly also the booster add-on that was discussed recently.

      Well, we *do* have to orbit Hubble in a controlled manner. It's massive enough that there's a possibility some of the components might reach Earth intact. The political fallout of not even attempting to controllably deorbit Hubble would be, um, nasty :)

      Ergo, the booster will be built regardless. As long as we're going to put a (unmanned, probably) booster up there, why not use it for a greater purpose than destroying the most product
  • by kulakovich (580584) <slashdot@@@bonfireproductions...com> on Friday January 30, 2004 @11:23AM (#8134895)
    A few quick notes on Hubble and NASA:

    If Hubble is going to come home on its own around 2007, that does not mean we have 3 years to make a decision. With every orbit Hubble gets a tiny bit closer to Earth. It isn't going to take a left turn in 3 years and suddenly be on collision course. We need to do something in the next year or so before the orbit decays to the point that a boost won't move it high enough. That and this is mostly about repair and replacement parts as previously stated - which brings me to:

    There was a Hubble plan. NASA has had a plan all along to successfully and responsibly keep Hubble going. Obviously, some unexpected and tragic events have changed that plan.

    However, U.S. folks posting with a gripe about NASA's bad planning with Hubble and the International Space Station need to re-direct their energies and complain to their congresspeople - they are the ones holding the purse strings, and they are the ones who cut the Hab module for the ISS. Each of us share the burden of what "popular opinion" is, and that is the only thing we can do about keeping plans on track.

    Kulakovich
  • I think it's kinda funny that NASA no longer considers Hubble a Project, Program, or even equipment, but that it's simply referred to as MATTER....
  • Which will replace Hubble anyway, is more capable, and doesn't need a shuttle launch.

    If you're going to go to the expense of a space launch, why not launch a nice new telescope instead of trying to fix up the Hubble, which at this point is a beater anyway.

    Jon Acheson
    • You're probably right about this. My intuitive guess is that the cost of a telescope is less than that of the mission to launch or service it and that the only reason that Hubble is serviced instead of being constantly replaced is that the service missions can be combined with others, reducing the cost.

      So instead of making a special save Hubble launch, a new telescope could be launched.
  • Here [spaceref.com] is an article about a private company that wants to save the Hubble with a "space tug". I say if NASA is going to let it burn anyway, they should let private industry bid for the project. There are a lot of reasons that the Hubble is still relevant. NEO (near earth objects) anyone? The Hubble has made some amazing discoveries and I don't think it has outlived its usefulness yet.
  • Not only would the Hubble servicing mission save one of astronomy's most valuable instruments, it would offer desperately needed aid to the sagging aerospace industry. Keeping Hubble UP is a good thing, not only for science, but for industry.

    Personally, I think the troubled aerospace industry is more than a little responsible for Bush's sudden excitement about going to Mars and the Moon. IIRC, not too long ago government was hacking away at NASA's budget at light-speed.

  • His perspective isn't unique. I know a lot of management types with their heads up their asses.

  • Is it just me, or didn't the decision to let the Hubble die early seem to come awefully quick after President Bush's policy directive? I mean, that's a major decision and it came days after. Clearly not enough time to think it through, and let's face it, in many ways, the Hubble is NASA's most successful public relations program since Apollo. I mean, I hate to say, let's spend millions 'cause the pictures look cool, but think twice before you toss it out.
  • Let it die (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zerbey (15536) * on Friday January 30, 2004 @12:41PM (#8135704) Homepage Journal
    Let it go.. it's served its purpose (and what an amazing job it did!) but they're already planning a newer, better telescope to be launched in a few years. Plus, when we get on the moon we can build an even better one that will make the Hubble look insignificant in comparison.

  • Hubble: A solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MOMOCROME (207697) <momocrome@NoSPaM.gmail.com> on Friday January 30, 2004 @01:16PM (#8136102)
    I've got the solution to our Hubble Troubles: lash that bugger to the ISS.

    It's simple, really. To sink the Hubble, NASA already plans [cbsnews.com] on firing off an un-manned mission to drive it down into a decaying orbit:
    The Hubble will eventually fall out of orbit and crash to Earth, probably in 2011 or 2012. To make that event safe, Grunsfeld said, NASA will design and build a small robot craft that will be launched and guided to the Hubble.


    The robot craft would "grab the Hubble and bring it into the atmosphere in a controlled manner," he said, guiding the school-bus-sized craft to harmlessly splash into a remote part of an ocean.

    This shows the resources for manuevering the telescope are already budgeted. There may be added expense in engineering a mount point on the ISS, and additional risk & effort involved in calculating a safe vector, but as the following (kick ass) tools [nasa.gov] can show you, the HST and the ISS have practically identical orbits assigned them. The difference in orbits between the ISS and the HST are in almost identical orbits, as regards altitude, speed and direction of travel. It would be simple and cheap to re-purpose the end-of-life booster pack to serve as a tow truck into ISS space.

    What problems would this plan solve? Well, service missions are suddenly a matter of popping out on the patio and replacing a fuse, instead of a multi-billion dollar voyage risking the life and safety of many billions more worth of equipment, personel and reputation. Extra parts can be tucked in with ISS mission carry-on baggage if necessary. and the HST would still be one of the finest optical instruments ever imagined.

    Would there be problems with this solution? Yes. There may be issues with local radiation effects in the vicinity of the station, effects that might diminish the sensitivity of the instrument, whether by heating, light-polution, communications equipment or even vibration from the motors used aboard the station. The HST was not designed to work under such conditions. However, many of these issues can be solved with careful consideration with engineering the mount point spar. Any remaining degradation is worth the pain, as a hobbled hubble is better than a scrubbed hubbled.

    This solution is just the first off the top of my head. There are others to consider. Perhaps they could use the booster to park the HST in a non-decaying orbit long enough to wait on the arrival of cherap space flight. On second though, by the time we have cheap space flight, it will be a simple thing to put up copies of the HST and far more besides. I suppose there are other possibilities, but mating the HST to the ISS is the cheapest, fastest, safest and sanest choice for the immediate future.
  • by butane_bob2003 (632007) on Friday January 30, 2004 @01:56PM (#8136630) Homepage
    is another evaluation ala Richard P. Feynman. Too bad he is no longer available, having shifted off this mortal coil... 'Unique perspectives' can be very enlightening. Feynman's Challenger Report [virtualschool.edu]
  • Let it die (Score:4, Interesting)

    by glassware (195317) on Friday January 30, 2004 @01:57PM (#8136649) Homepage Journal
    The Hubble Telescope is old. It has produced some spectacular images, and it has now exceeded its productive life. It needs significant repairs and a costly shuttle mission to stay afloat. Its mirrors, although fixed in a dramatic spacewalk, are no longer state of the art.

    On the other hand, NASA has developed a new space telescope [nasa.gov] with a better mirror [msn.com] that is scheduled to be launched in 2011.

    It is very important for NASA to do valuable science, but why not do it cost effectively? The cost of a shuttle mission [faqs.org], estimated at about $400m - $500m, is almost half of the whole budget for the next generation space telescope [colorado.edu] ($825m).

  • by LaCosaNostradamus (630659) <LaCosaNostradamus&mail,com> on Friday January 30, 2004 @02:31PM (#8137070) Journal
    I find many of these posts vastly amusing with the common theme of "let it go, it's obsolete, it'll be replaced". All this common sentiment is utterly ignorant of how telescopes are used.

    As soon as you build a major 'scope, people are lined up to use it ... and the prior 'scopes still have waiting lists. You can't possibly build enough square meters of mirror to satisfy demand.

    So, Hubble will never be "obsolete", since even old, old 'scopes on Earth are being used.

    It's time for you throw-it-out boneheads to wake the fuck up from your Western dream (actually a "nightmare") of conspicuous consumption. You cannot afford to continue building things and then throwing them away when they fail to contine to excite your techie bone. Hubble can be used up to a certain limit in the degradation of the mirror's aluminizing layer ... many decades, probably. The amortization of Hubble can be very long. But you have to regain an understanding of the amortization process itself.

    Use it up, make it last, wear it out. The old New English sayings ring true today.

What this country needs is a good five dollar plasma weapon.

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