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Space Science

NASA Engineers Dispute Hubble Safety Claim 412

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the forced-obsolescence dept.
Zeinfeld writes "According to the administration, the Hubble space telescope is going to be allowed to die in the next three years because the shuttle mission required to save it would be too risky. Meanwhile the public plans say shuttle missions to the space station will resume. Papers leaked to the New York Times say hogwash. The article (free subscription required) reports claims that money and politics, not safety are the reason. The public NASA story is clearly nonsense, and if the science from Hubble does not justify a shuttle mission, then it's time to pull the plug on the space station. I suspect that is exactly what will happen after the November election."
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NASA Engineers Dispute Hubble Safety Claim

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  • by khallow (566160) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @12:38PM (#8212257)
    Currently this story links to the second page of the article.
  • ...differently? Lets face it, the tax cuts served two purposes for the Bush administration, buy off support of the richest in America and to run the finances of the nation into the ground so far that we would have to cut spending. This Mars crap is just that, a canard to distract the populace and make Bush look like a visionary. Given it was unfunded I would imagine he does not have any serious desire to see the US travel to Mars, although I would imagine he would like Terry McCauliffe get sent there...
    • by RickHunter (103108) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @01:11PM (#8212503)

      Actually, Bush has been increasing funding, and shows no sign of stopping. Tax cuts are an excuse to cut public funding - medicare, education, social security, NASA, intelligence, and the like - while boosting corporate welfare and payoffs to the richest 1% (which compose 99% of the Bush White House - big surprise!).

      • by nyseal (523659) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @03:32PM (#8213651)
        Just a thought.....and who, exactly, provides jobs in this country? The lower 20% of the economic scale? Maybe if you're selling drugs, sure. The mid 60%? Right...the working people. The upper 20% are the ones forking out the cash to invest in business and capital to provide jobs (and not JUST in the IT industry). They take their tax incentives just like Joe Six-pack come April 15th. Example: Where I live they are building a HUGE industrial park with extremely attractive tax breaks for big business (and entrepreneurs if they can afford to invest) to bring jobs to the area. They SHOULD get a tax break to invest and give me a job. Jesus, I'm so sick of hearing that only the rich get a break when it comes to taxes. When YOU have $10 million dollars to invest and have the option of going to a state or county that will save you 10% in taxes, which one would you pick? 10% is 10% is 10%; whether you're Joe or GM. I don't have $10 million to invest or create employment so I'll just have to take the job...and I'd rather it be in my community rather than in Mexico.
        • by ppanon (16583) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @04:50PM (#8214152) Homepage Journal
          Actually, most jobs are created by small and medium-sized businesses. Large companies are usually in mature markets where the opportunities for growth are limited. So dropping taxes for the rich who have most of their money invested in large companies does not encourage growth as much. Dropping taxes for small entrepreneurs does.

          Dropping taxes on Joe six-pack increases his disposable income and his ability to consume. It provides more opportunities for entrepreneurs to open new businesses. If you have lots of money to invest but no buyers for your product, that money is not going to do you any good.
        • Where I live they are building a HUGE industrial park with extremely attractive tax breaks for big business (and entrepreneurs if they can afford to invest) to bring jobs to the area.

          ...instead of putting those resources towards helping the existing small businesses grow. Homegrown jobs beat imported ones hands down.

          When YOU have $10 million dollars to invest and have the option of going to a state or county that will save you 10% in taxes, which one would you pick?

          You give Amalgamated Profits, In

        • by demachina (71715) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @08:10PM (#8215389)
          "The upper 20% are the ones forking out the cash to invest in business and capital to provide jobs (and not JUST in the IT industry)."

          This might have been a valid argument in the past but it doesn't work well any more. Most of the big corporations and the wealthy who have capital are not investing it to create good jobs and have zero allegiance to creating jobs in the U.S. since off shoring and outsourcing became the norm. These days investors are always looking for the cheapest labor they can find, capable of doing the work, in order to maximize their profit. That is a fundemental law of capitalism. That is why the new market bubble, in the post dot com bubble era, is in any stock with a China connection, the largest pool of the cheapest labor.

          Jobs and working people in the U.S. are doomed thanks to the advent of:

          - cheap telecommunications
          - cheap container ships
          - massive illegal immigration
          - free trade

          Cheap container ships allowed moving manufacturing jobs to the cheapest labor market. When NAFTA was first signed manufacturing jobs fled to Mexico and Canada. But even Mexican labor was been undercut by even cheaper labor in China coupled with ever larger and more efficient container ships. When longshoreman were largely removed from unloading of ships, manufacturing jobs in the U.S. were doomed

          Cheap telecommunications is doing the same thing to information worker jobs. It started out as call centers, labor intensive programming and is moving into all kinds of information jobs. Paralegal work is an example of the newest wave.

          This leaves us with jobs that required a warm body be in the United States to do the job, picking crops, doing the nails of rich laides, etc. This was easily solved. Big business applied political pressure and the government simply stopped enforcing the integrity of borders and in employment. This resulted in many low end jobs going to illegals and massive downward pressure on wages for American's at the low end. Bush's new worker program is ultimately designed to drive down wages. In some respects driving down wages is essential for American competitiveness in the global economy. Problem is it will be ugly for working Americans.

          It is a fact of life in the modern capitalist world that capital is going to flee to the cheapest labor market and you can't easily stop it.

          The massive stimulus the Bush administration is applying to the economy is doing a few things but job creation in the U.S is not really on the list.

          - it juiced the stock market by cutting taxes on dividends and capital gains. The stock market can go up in the current environment even if the underlying economy is not. Lots of ordinary people benefit from the stock market going up today, but it benefits the wealthy much more than the average investor because they know how to play the market and they tend to get lots of edges ordinary investors don't. Small investors were hurt much more severely in the last down turn than large investors.
          - its infusing large amount of tax money into the wealthy and large corporations further creating the facade of a booming economy. The massive funds the Medicare "reform" bill is going to pump in to drug companies is a good example. The Energy bill that was voted down would have done the same thing for energy companies. They might create some jobs but they are mostly going to make wealthy the executives and large stock holders of these large corporations who are the benefactors of the Bush administation.
          - Its pumped the economy, short term, to help insure the Bush administration is reelected in November at the price of a massive deficit that will haunt us forever. Its simply not sound economics and that is exemplified by the fact the dollar is plunging against the Euro and even the lowly Canadian dollar. Its so unprecedent that the IMF and World Bank, typically lap dogs of the U.S., are raising serious warning flags about the danger of the Bush administrations reckless fiscal policies.
    • by Zeinfeld (263942) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @02:31PM (#8213197) Homepage
      Lets face it, the tax cuts served two purposes for the Bush administration, buy off support of the richest in America and to run the finances of the nation into the ground so far that we would have to cut spending. This Mars crap is just that, a canard to distract the populace and make Bush look like a visionary.

      I don't think the issue is actually cost here, the issue is that the shuttle is too unsafe to fly for any reason at all. Clearly if it is safe enough to fly thirty odd missions for the space station it is safe enough to do one mission to save Hubble.

      If the issue is cost, it is not Bush behind it. Bush is not Reagan. Reagan cut spending to pay for his tax cuts. Bush has not cut anything, has not vetoed any bill however pork laden. The current plot is to have him veto the highways bill so he looks tough on spending safe in the knowledge he will be overridden.

      Hubble is the biggest contribution NASA has made to science in the past decade. There is more science comes out of Hubble each week than will ever come out of the space station. If the issue was cash it would be because the NASA brass either think they can get Congress to pay for an extra mission to save Hubble or they are so committed to the space station they will defend it at all costs.

      The Mars crap is an obvious canard, its the 'vision thing'. Like dressing Bush up in a flight suit and landing on the deck of the US Lincoln. It is a typical election pledge and you can tell it is bogus because there is no extra money in the budget to pay for it. The unreported part of the speech gave the end of life date for the shuttle.

      The shuttle is not going to fly before the election. Karl Rove is not going to risk having it blow up on the launchpad and have Bush be blamed for an election stunt that cost others lives. To lose one shuttle is a misfortune, two...

      So far the shuttle has cost 16 lives. Both disasters showed that the management had failled. The top priority after November is going to be executing Bin Laden and sorting out the CIA. Fixing NASA as well is not going to be ralistic.

  • safety issues (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sinucus (85222) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @12:41PM (#8212277)
    These safety issues are just plain silly. It's the same thing as to why we are allowing our privacy and dignity to be invaded when taking a plane somewhere. The columbia crash sucks, yes, but when did a couple of human deaths ever stop human invention. There are still 6 billion people on this planet I don't think we should stop our science because a couple people died. The next telescope to be put in space won't happen until 2012 and it can't even see the same spectrum that hubble can. The new one is going to be infrared, hubble on the other hand uses human visible spectrum. This is a loss that can't be imagined. Stop playing your silly little games NASA and let us use hubble!
    • Re:safety issues (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Prof.Phreak (584152) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @12:48PM (#8212334) Homepage
      The next telescope to be put in space won't happen until 2012...

      That's assuming it will even happen. I can imagine how a few funding cuts and some unfortunate accidents can delay that until 2030, or at worst, cancel the whole program. (ie: there is a huge debt now - won't surprise me if the space program is the first to be cut).
    • Re:safety issues (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jaylen (59655) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @12:50PM (#8212351)
      Stop playing your silly little games NASA and let us use hubble!

      Believe me, it is not NASA that is playing this silly little game. :( Take a look higher up the money chain than NASA itself. With the budget in such a state (in so short a time too) the Republicans are desperate to find anything that they can cut costs on, and Hubble is the first to go - followed a close second by the IIS.

      • by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Saturday February 07, 2004 @01:27PM (#8212598)
        > Hubble is the first to go - followed a close second by the IIS.

        I agree with the second half of that - IIS should definitely go. Good thing Apache has 'alternate' funding! :)
      • Re:safety issues (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DoraLives (622001)
        Hubble is the first to go - followed a close second by the IIS.

        Don't be so sure that this isn't some kind of ploy to kill the Space Station with a minimum of political fallout.

        Think about it: They've proposed scuttling what is perhaps Nasa's most popular program, HST. ISS is a white elephant and everybody knows it, but we're tied to the damn thing by all sorts of binding legal things. So why not propose to kill HST, generate a huge outrage against not only that, but also the money-sucking ISS, and then sit

        • Re:safety issues (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Zeinfeld (263942)
          So why not propose to kill HST, generate a huge outrage against not only that, but also the money-sucking ISS, and then sit back and "let the people speak" and wash our hands of the whole sordid affair. Europe, Japan, Canada, and everybody else in on the ISS boondoggle get to go suck eggs, while the Americans save themselves a boatload of money, kill off a particularly useless program, and wind up looking like heros for doing it

          Do you think the Europeans and Japanese are all that keen on the ISS program a

    • Re:safety issues (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dmurawsky (255433)
      My Question is this: If the Hubble resides above the 6 mile mark and is going to be left to die a fiery death, can't someone else just go up there and fix it? It should be in international waters, so to speak, and salvage rights should be in effect. I know it'd be expensive as hell, but with the push to privatized space flight it doesn't seem to be that far out there. I can think of a few private companies and institutions that might want access to a decent space telescope and would be willing to take t
  • Political reasons... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Xentor (600436)
    So does that mean Bush is going to make a campaign pledge to stop "wasting money" on NASA?

    I'll vote for the first president who promises to fund research in Lofstrom Loops [homoexcelsior.com] or the like...
    • by Homology (639438) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @12:54PM (#8212386)
      So does that mean Bush is going to make a campaign pledge to stop "wasting money" on NASA? I'll vote for the first president who promises to fund research in Lofstrom Loops or the like...

      Is a promise from President Bush to be taken at face value? From a man that has no qualms about lying to the public with a regularity and a level never seen before from an US President?

      • lying to the public with a regularity and a level never seen before from an US President
        Have you forgotton the last three presidents already? They all lied.
  • by MonkeysKickAss (735143) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @12:44PM (#8212298) Journal
    Well it was great while it lasted and can never truly be replaced because it was a great achievment during its time period. As technology grows their will be a new and improved telescope that will take its place but the Hubble will never be forgoten. Hubble RIS (Rest In Space)
    • No, there won't! That's the point. Hubble's replacement is scheduled for 2012 and it sees in infrared. Hubble uses visible light spectrum. There is no scheduled replacement for hubble. We can not afford to lose Hubble! I'm outraged, let's just spend 10 Billion USD on football because apparently people care more about that than learning about our universe.
      • by virtual_mps (62997) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @01:09PM (#8212492)
        No, there won't! That's the point. Hubble's replacement is scheduled for 2012 and it sees in infrared. Hubble uses visible light spectrum. There is no scheduled replacement for hubble.

        Except, of course, for the new generation of ground-based telescopes with better resolving power than the hubble. It's silly to spend more money on inferior technology just because it's space-based and therefor "must be cooler".
        • by jdhutchins (559010) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @01:19PM (#8212548)
          Compared to new ground-based telescopes, the Hubble is a technically inferior telescope. But it still gets much better images because it doesn't have the atmosphere. It's not just because it "must be cooler" because it's space-based. No amount of telescope can make up for the atmosphere.
          • by virtual_mps (62997) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @02:06PM (#8212991)
            Compared to new ground-based telescopes, the Hubble is a technically inferior telescope. But it still gets much better images because it doesn't have the atmosphere. It's not just because it "must be cooler" because it's space-based. No amount of telescope can make up for the atmosphere.

            Sure it can--you must not be aware of the advances in adaptive optics. There's a reason that the next-generation space telescope isn't designed for visible-light observations--advances in ground-based technology have overtaken the advantages of a space-based platform. (Specifically, with AO the important factor is more mirror size (to sense dimmer objects) then atmosphere, and a space telescope will never be able to compete with a ground telescope in that area in our lifetimes. Add to that the huge cost savings in not boosting the observatory into orbit --effectively increasing the budget for instruments.) Some informative links:

            Keck Observatory [hawaii.edu]
            European OWL telescope [eso.org]
            • pace telescope will never be able to compete with a ground telescope in that area in our lifetimes.

              Do you do any astronomical observations?

              Having a larger aperature not only increases the angular resolution of your scope, but also increases the collecting area.

              The first is very useful for imaging, in which case under certain ideal conditions ground-based AO imaging can achieve marginally better pictures than Hubble.

              But the second implies faint observing, and the atmosphere still cuts the SNR of fain

          • Before somebody who really doesn't know the issues jump on you, let me just make a minor qualification: Adaptive optics can produce better images than space-based telescopes, such as Hubble, better resolution (because of longer baselines), better seeing, and so on, in spite of the atmosphere. But technically, you are correct, Hubble is extremely useful also in situations where you're not really that dependent of image quality, because it gives you a priori knowledge of things like background level (somethin
          • Compared to new ground-based telescopes, the Hubble is a technically inferior telescope.

            Uggh.

            Ground-based adaptive optic telescopes are only marginally superior to Hubble in terms of imaging. Hubble is still superior for long-term integrations (much lower SNR in space than Earth and can hence observe much fainter objects) and spectra.

            Spectra from Hubble don't have atmospheric artifacts that even the best adaptive-optic scopes cannot get rid of.

        • It's silly to spend more money on inferior technology just because it's space-based and therefor "must be cooler".

          Tough to call "working right now" technology "inferior" to something that doesn't exist yet. By the way, I don't buy for a second that ground-based telescopes will ever have better imaging than Hubble. Sorry.

          But then again, nobody listens to the engineers anyway...

          1. Except, of course, for the new generation of ground-based telescopes with better resolving power than the hubble. It's silly to spend more money on inferior technology just because it's space-based and therefor "must be cooler".

          Curious: Which planned or existing ground based telescopes match/exceed Hubble?

          If they aren't available now, when will they be working at Hubble-or-better levels (quality and time available for scientists)?

      • by big-magic (695949) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @01:12PM (#8212512)

        Hubble's replacement is scheduled for 2012 and it sees in infrared. Hubble uses visible light spectrum. There is no scheduled replacement for hubble.

        I don't know the details of the spectrum that the Webb telescope will be able to view. But viewing only infrared is not as odd as it seems. Visible light and infrared astronomy overlap a great deal. The really deep objects are so greatly red-shifted, they are in the infrared when the light gets to us. And since the Webb telescope is primarily for viewing such objects, this makes sense. But you are right in that it will not be a direct replacement for the Hubble, although it is close.

        And I agree that shutting down Hubble makes no sense. It is doing great astronomy and could continue doing so for many years. I also think it's a mistake to put the Webb telescope at the L2 point rather than in Earth orbit. Hubble has shown that the ability to do repair missions is invaluable.

  • by Billly Gates (198444) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @12:44PM (#8212303) Journal
    I will probably get modded down as a troll here but no one who supports tax cuts really understand that service cuts must follow.

    This being just one example of them.

    As voters you chose bush and must live with that untill Novemember.

    If you care about Hubble then vote for someone who will raise your taxes. One or the other.

    Many americans are upset about the deficit but they keep voting for tax cuts again and again every couple of years after things are paid off.

    • by costas (38724) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @01:02PM (#8212441) Homepage
      • Whoa, dude... while I completely agree with you... cutting the military??? Are you insane?? That's a great way to get voted right out of office in the next election... the US military budget is all but untouchable (well, uncuttable, anyway) these days. After all, there's a country to defend!
      • In this age of fighting terrorism and Iraq it will be a tough sell. Bush belitered Clinton in 2000 for cutting it.

        People will assume you do not care about America or national security if you propose any cuts.

        Also military personal VOTE! They voted for Bush because they were pissed at Clinton for shutting down bases.

        Its like one big government funded wellfare program.
    • As voters you chose bush and must live with that untill Novemember.
      Correction: the Supreme Court (which consisted of five republicans and four democrats) chose Bush (not surprisingly with a 5-4 vote), not the public.
      • The Supreme Court didn't directly vote on who should win the 2000 election, the question they voted 5-4 on was whether Kathrine Harris, a Republican who the Secretary of State of Florida, did her job correctly.

        Florida law, as it had been on the books for years, had a rather blatent loophole. Kathrine Harris could certify the election results on Monday, or she could, at her sole option, open her office on Saturday for sole purpose of handling the election results then. Knowing that if she waited until Monda
    • Republicans make fun of "tax and spend liberals", but President Bush is doing even worse, he signed a budget that didn't tax enough to cover its spending, and therefore created a deficit. Just as we were finally getting around to paying off the national debt, we're now getting deeper into the hole. These are indisputable facts... the FY 2003 budget didn't cover the spending, and the FY 2004 budget proposal Bush submitted doesn't check either.

      "Tax and spend" might be bad, but "Not tax and spend" is even wor
    • I have a great plan. We'll be able to give tax cuts, not cut any services/government projects, and have even greater programs than before! What is this miracle, you might ask?

      It's called the "Not Spending Three Hundred Dollars on a Toilet Seat" plan.

      But in all seriousness, a lot of the money we pay in taxes is wasted - and by wasted, I don't mean spent on programs which aren't "necessary", but I mean just plain wasted. The $300 toilet seat was a while ago, but things like that still go on. Government
      • I thought this has been covered elsewhere...that $300 includes overhead costs. It's similar (in name, mind you) to how your charitable cash donation has a sizable fraction lopped off before getting spent on real charity. Same goes for research too.
        So if you cut costs, then you cut into the services support chain, thereby taking the people actually doing the charity/research/whatever away from what it was the money was meant to go towards in the first place. Granted, the pork should be cut in order to fin
    • It isn't so much a matter of the amount of taxes paid as it is a matter of how they're spent.

      A little bit less war, for example, would have done wonders.
    • I'd personally like to see the military spend a little more efficiently, the money spent on nonsense (mostly, it's just the inflated value for stupid shit like toilet seats because the military is buying them and they have one supplier for most everything but computers, which they can apparently often buy on bid) could go to the space program. Of course people have a zillion places to spend that money, but that's where I'd like to see it go.

      The military spends a lot of money on equipment of war, that's to

    • One must look at how the money is spent. Imagine taking the 87 billion needed for the Iraq war and spending it on Nasa, education, researching alternative energy, etc.

      It's really eye-opening when you look at just how our tax dollars are allocated. Here it is described with oreos. [e-tractions.com]
    • "As voters you chose bush and must live with that untill Novemember."

      Don't make such broad statements. Over half of Americans voted for Gore. Bush won the presidency, but I sure as hell didn't vote for him.
  • by RandBlade (749321) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @12:47PM (#8212320)
    The astronaughts on board Columbia and all the other NASA astronaughts who're being kept grounded now understand that going into space is risky. They're interested in what they do, they've chosen to take the risks and they're interested in the science.

    If the adminstration were to let the astronaughts decide whether to go up to fix Hubble when required, I doubt they would have a shortage of them volunteering to do that. The last thing the late astronaughts aboard Columbia would have wanted was to see their deaths result in the grounding of the space program and the premature death of Hubble.
  • text (Score:5, Informative)

    by mobby_6kl (668092) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @12:47PM (#8212327)
    Engineer's Papers Dispute Hubble Decision
    By DENNIS OVERBYE

    Published: February 7, 2004

    ASA's decision to abandon its crown scientific jewel, the Hubble Space Telescope, cannot be justified on safety grounds, according to a pair of reports by a NASA engineer that have been circulating in scientific and political circles in the last few days.

    The unsigned documents are attracting attention on Capitol Hill, particularly in the House Science Committee, which is expected to discuss the Hubble decision at a meeting on Thursday.

    Advertisement

    "We're reviewing the Hubble decision, looking at it very closely," said a spokesman for Representative Sherwood Boehlert, Republican of New York and chairman of the committee. "We're going to be examining the views in this particular document as well as a whole host of others."

    The documents have also created a buzz among astronomers, who hope that their wider distribution will help spark a larger debate about the telescope's fate. The reports have deepened astronomers' skepticism that safety and not politics and money was the issue last month when Sean O'Keefe, the NASA administrator, announced the cancellation of the space shuttle's planned 2006 maintenance visit to the telescope. As a result, the telescope will probably die in orbit within three years, astronomers say, instead of lasting into the early part of the next decade as originally planned.

    In explaining his decision, Mr. O'Keefe had cited a recommendation of the board that investigated the Columbia space shuttle disaster last year that NASA must develop a way to inspect and repair damage to the shuttle's thermal protection system.

    While the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was committed to developing this ability for missions to the International Space Station, which could serve as a "safe haven" for the astronauts if the shuttle was damaged, Mr. O'Keefe said it was too risky and expensive to develop an "autonomous" inspection and repair capability for a single mission to the telescope.

    The new reports challenge Mr. O'Keefe's conclusion, citing data and references from NASA documents in arguing that the administrator's statement "cannot be supported."

    The Columbia Accident Investigation Board recommendations and NASA's plans for "return to flight" include ultimately developing just such an ability to inspect and repair the tiles independently of the station. That autonomous ability is needed because the shuttle might fail to make it to the space station, or the space station may become too big and complex to serve as a repair base, according to the papers.

    One of the reports concludes that missions to the telescope "are as safe as or perhaps safer than" space station missions "conducted in the same time frame."

    The author is a NASA engineer who wrote the reports based on internal data and who declined to be identified for fear of losing his job. Copies of the documents were provided to The New York Times by an astronomer who is not part of NASA and opposes the decision to let the telescope die.

    "Those documents certainly undercut the public position of the agency," said Dr. Garth Illingworth, an astronomer at the University of California at Santa Cruz and a member of a committee that advises NASA on space science.

    Dr. Illingworth added that it was important to open up debate on these issues. "We need to get real information out there, and not just have a few people in NASA saying we know what's best," he said.

    A Congressional staff member who was given the documents said they appeared to be credible. "We are taking them seriously," he said. Referring to the requirement of an autonomous repair capability, he said, "NASA's going to have to spend the money to do this" if the agency follows the accident board's recommendations.

    The documents also argue that missions to the space station might actually be riskier than going to the space telescope for several reasons. Because of the space
  • my take on that (Score:2, Insightful)

    by khallow (566160)
    I think it's likely that the Shuttle won't survive the Bush administration. By this, I mean that the spending (as dictated by the Bush administration) on the Shuttle is projected to decline substantially after 2008 and that Bush can halt production of various necessary systems (eg, the external tanks).

    Given that this change in the US space program is occuring during an election year, it's very likely that we'll get the good news now, and the bad news after the elections. The ISS is already in serious trou

  • by Anonymous Coward
    What the hell is the space station doing for research? Anyone know any science coming out of it? I'm sure there might be some life sciences, but is it any more than the Russians have already learned? I'm asking if any Slashdotters know of anything useful the space station has done. I know Hubble has been historic in what it has delivered. The space station seems to be a goose egg if you ask me.
  • by SuperDuG (134989) <be.eclec@tk> on Saturday February 07, 2004 @12:50PM (#8212359) Homepage Journal
    You've got a classic car, one that is a real beauty. You drive it around and everyone loves to look at it and you've had nothing but great experiences with it. But you've repaired the car so many times it's actually cost the equivalent amount of two new cars which are better by features and performance. Now the damned thing has broken down again, the neighborhood loves to see you drive the car around and loves to go for rides in it, but not enough to help you pay for the damned thing.

    Hence Hubble. Its taken some pretty pictures dont get me wrong, but has it saved humanity? Do we owe our lives or some pretty pictures to hubble? I think its time to let it die and wait until we get the time to put a newer better space satellite in orbit.

    I say don't intentionally kill it, but let it die on its own. AND if you get around to it, see if maybe there isn't a cost effective means to do a little repair work on it. I know I'd rather my tax dollars went to puting a base on the moon where a larger more powerful telescope can be placed on the darkside. Or a roundtrip to mars to begin the study of sustaining life there.

    So yes, I'm in favor of killing the hubble if it means more advancement in space science, which it undoubtedly does. Out with the old and in with the new!!! (no comment on voyager though)

    • by niall2 (192734) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @01:09PM (#8212496) Homepage
      Lets not confuse space engineering with space science. Hubble is the only platform that can do many of the things it does. Ultra-violet astronomy cannot be done from the ground. And wide field high resolution imaging cannot be done with modern adaptive optics. This combined with its spatial resolution and technical advancements have lead to many of the largest astronomical advancements in past 50 years. No other observatory could have found Dark Energy. No others could have observed the deep feelds HST has and reshaped the entire theory of how the universe aged. And if it were not for the missions to service Hubble, ISS would never have happened. We learn more and more about construction in space with each mission to ISS and HST. So in that sence what we know about practical space engineering comes from HST as well.

      Don't get me wrong, new platforms would be nice. Its just we don't have any, and if HST is allowed to die there will be no true replacement. The Web Space Telescope is a successor not a replacement. And the moon base on is so far off that it really isn't a viable option, given the ebb and flow of plans in Washington (Clinton basically killed Bush's original lets go to the moon plan).

      Going to the Moon, to Mars, and establishing permenant bases is great engineering. Velcro and Tang for everyone. But pocket calcuators, while essential to doing science in the '70s are not the science. If you look at the proposed plan, science is out the door at NASA. They did this once, flags and footsteps of the Apollo missions. They almost didn't take a geologist to the moon to look directly at it. Lets make sure they don't lose sight of the science and just go for the engineering glory.
    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday February 07, 2004 @01:15PM (#8212524) Homepage Journal
      Has it saved humanity? We will never know. That's not the reason to keep it around. The reason to keep it is, will it help us learn something that we don't know?

      One thing I've learned during my relatively short life to date (just over a quarter of a century now) is that things you learn from seemingly unrelated disciplines have applications to one another. Things you thought would never apply to one another have a direct bearing on each other and if you don't understand something about them both, you will flail. For example, prior to 1942 no one knew that the sun was a source of radio noise. This fact now affects the design of a great deal of equipment. Astronomy has a bearing on electronics? How amazing.

      It would be great to stick a nice scope on the moon, but we should be going there anyway. The question we have to ask ourself is, how much time will be lost doing research by not fixing it, and where is that money going to go if we don't spend it on hubble? The safety aspect doesn't bother me much so long as there are astronauts willing to take the risks. If you have to force people to go, then I wouldn't do it. It's not worth a single unwilling loss of human life.

  • Just walk away? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AndroidCat (229562) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @12:51PM (#8212365) Homepage
    The record for space projects abandoned and allowed to rot or crash and burn is not good.

    The last few Apollo missions were quietly turned into expensive scrap.
    Viking landers where the budget to listen to them was cut before they stopped sending.
    Skylab which was allowed to die while waiting for the shuttle to make it better.
    Various of shuttle replacement projects that given a half-hearted try and dropped.

    And with the amount of continuous program and budget changes, it's a miracle that the shuttle and ISS ever got off the ground. (The slow morph from Freedom to the ISS and now to this is extremely sickening.)

    The cut-backs so that manned Mars exploration and a Moon base can go forward are a joke. After the cut-backs have been done, the new programs will never go forward.

    • Re:Just walk away? (Score:3, Informative)

      by Squid (3420)
      You're right on all points except:

      Skylab which was allowed to die while waiting for the shuttle to make it better.

      Skylab wasn't 'allowed' to die, it was pretty much engineered to be disposable, it had no resupply capability (except whatever could be sent up in the capsules with the crew) - it was sent up with supplies already on board.

      The other problem was its orbit. It had been talked about to use the space shuttle to lift Skylab and do some work to it to make it useful again, or at the very least sti
  • by Zergwyn (514693) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @01:02PM (#8212444)
    Or at least I should say, science is not the main point. It frustrates me to see that every time an article of this sort pops up, it always seems that someone makes this (arguably quite valid) point: Why bother with manned space travel for science/exploration missions, when autonomous machines can do it more cheaply and for less risk? Counter arguments to this can be made along the lines of humans being more adaptable, flexible, etc, but ultimately the argument has a lot of merit. Except that it is arguing against something that shouldn't really be the main factor in the debate. We need manned missions, because we need actual manned colinization of space, for a great number of reasons. It seems like a good idea to not have all of our eggs in one basket, so to speak, and I am sure that eventually very big, important science will come out of being able to construct things in the asteroid belt.

    But in the mean time, humanity really needs a frontier. Our systems have a tendency to slowly but surely become slower and more mired as time passes, in part because power tends to be gravitational; it gets concentrated in the hands of smaller groups of people, who in turn often become more cautious and inflexible with regards to things that would rock the boat. Bureaucracy gets bigger, not smaller, and it becomes harder to try radically new ways of doing things. The best way for change to take place is often for it to be experimented with somewhere else, and then filter back; this is what happened in the past with America. These people, coming to a new place without any entrenched baggage, got to try to start a system from scratch, and when it was successful, other countries could observe and then emulate and improve on it as it filtered back. But there is no frontier to experiment with anymore. The whole world (the oceans don't count, they are too hard/expensive to colonize for now) has people living in it. I think it is important for our development as a species to move on to new places, where new laws can be tried (including new ways of thinking about stuff like IP and citizen participation), and so that no single entity will ever be able to easily control everyone.

    For many people, I believe that the excitement, opportunity, etc. are worth the risk and sacrifice that it will take. The Hubble has been one of our most successful and productive projects, and one that wouldn't have been possible without astronauts; the space station, in contrast, has in fact been sort of a waste from the point of view of both science and exploration. But neither should be the sole reason to keep or get rid of the shuttle, or the concept of manned space flight. A certain amount of capital is needed to prime things, so to speak, before enough momentum can develop for space exploration to become self-sustaining without government aid. This large up front cost has been and will be difficult for many to swallow, especially in our notoriously money hungry Congress. But as a country, and a species, we need this, and it will pay back many times over. I apologize for my long windedness, but I am hopeful that eventually some politicians will try to get votes from people with some large vision and dream instead of simply the usual issues.

    • science is what makes it possible.. ..so science is essential to the long term going to the space plan. also through science you get the biggest paybacks.

    • by Stuntmonkey (557875) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @02:18PM (#8213088)

      Or at least I should say, science is not the main point. [snip] We need manned missions, because we need actual manned colinization of space, for a great number of reasons.

      The problem with today's manned program is that it has the goal of employing people, rather than colonizing space or anything else high-minded. The politicians who approve major programs like the ISS view this as pork-barrel to get relatively well-paid jobs for their constituents. Haven't you ever wondered why NASA centers for manned flight are distributed across so many states (compared with the unmanned program, which is nearly all at JPL)? Is that any way to foster communication and engineer complex systems? The tragic reality is that the astronauts killed on the Shuttle were not heroes in any scientific or exploratory sense, but were really just innocent bystanders in all of this.

      I predict the manned program at NASA will continue to flounder until there is real competition from other nations. Global warming and asteroid impacts just don't make politicians feel threatened, but you can bet this would change if for example the Chinese took real steps toward their stated goal of a colony on the moon.

      The other way to rejuvenate manned spaceflight is to do it privately. If the space entrepreneurs out there can bootstrap a profitable use of space (say, tourism for wealthy individuals), then this changes the game completely and creates an economic marketplace that could lead toward large-scale colonization. But this is still many years away.

  • The public story is hogwash. O'keefe is playing the safety card, to block the scientists from playing the "keep hubble alive forever" card.
  • What? (Score:5, Funny)

    by cubicledrone (681598) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @01:17PM (#8212537)
    Who listens to the engineers anyway?

    Come on! This is the new new new economy! All we need is marketing!

    </sarcasm>

    (This is funny because it's true)
  • by SiliconEntity (448450) * on Saturday February 07, 2004 @01:20PM (#8212551)
    To me, this report doesn't really make sense. The current policy is that the shuttle will always go to the space station. There it will be inspected to make sure that the tiles are good before it goes back for reentry. Such an inspection would have detected the Columbia problem. Then in the unlikely case that there is damage, the crew could stay at the station on an emergency basis while another shuttle is launched.

    No such actions are possible on a mission to the Hubble. Because of the orbital parameters, it is impossible for the shuttle to be able to go to both places on one mission. So any inspection, repair or wait-for-rescue would have to occur right there at the telescope.

    Now, the report claims that NASA plans "eventually" to create additional facilities for these operations, other than at the space station. But that's obviously going to take a great deal of time. For one thing, just consider building the docking mechanism to allow two shuttles to connect and transfer crews from one to the other. No such thing has ever been designed, while such facilities already exist at the space station. Plus, the space station has additional supplies and space to let the crew wait safely for rescue. And it can hold inspection and repair equipment.

    So while NASA may eventually create off-station repair facilities, that won't happen for a long time. Their initial efforts will be very properly focused on getting these abilities set up at the space station itself. And that means that no such facilities can be available by 2006, when the mission to Hubble is needed.
  • Since when is strapping your ass to a huge controlled explosion - to propell yourself into an airless, sub zero free fall around a planet (for any reason) SAFE?
  • by KD7JZ (161218) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @01:26PM (#8212593)
    The reason that the shuttle program will be allowed to
    die is that its true justification was deployment and maintenance of intelligence gathering satellites. Deployment of VERY LARGE array antennas in orbit required a vehicle like the shuttle. The science benefits from the shuttle program were just a cover story to allow congress to justify the expenditures. With the end of the cold war and recent repeated intelligence failures, it will be harder to justify the black budget support of the shuttle program. Not to mention the fact, that our current adversaries are relatively low tech, making technical spaceborn collection programs less valuable.
    • The reason that the shuttle program will be allowed to die is that its true justification was deployment and maintenance of intelligence gathering satellites. Deployment of VERY LARGE array antennas in orbit required a vehicle like the shuttle.

      The Saturn V carried a bigger payload.

      The point of the shuttle was to go to the ISS. The point of the ISS was to have something for the shuttle to go to.

      It was all about that Mars thing after the moon shot. NASA wanted to go to Mars, congress rejected the plan.

  • Faith-based science (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 07, 2004 @01:39PM (#8212735)
    I worked on STS as test engineer for several years until the mid 80's. The estimated catastrophic failure rates were then about 1/25 launches, based upon the 5 fleet. We're in the realm of physics here (well within an order of magnitude/factor of two or so.)

    The politics has always overwhelmed the science; my pals in the spacelab DESPISED the scientists as eggheads, the scientists loathed the silliness of manned flight programs which bled the fundpot dry, without any real result. As physicist working in an engineering area, I got shot at by both sides. (A former NASA historian wrote a good treatise on that a few years back; can't recall the particulars.) Here we go again, except that this administration goes WAY further with it's hatred of science. In fact, I'll wager to say that it's his faith-based baloney which is behind this move, along with a goodly dose of wanting only manned programs, for the politics of it, and all science be damned.

    http://thenation.com/outrage/index.mhtml?bid=6

    BTW, I was asked to lecture to our entire department (about 400 engineers and technicians) when I left in mid-'85. The topic: what can we do to improve. Here's what I said: GET SERIOUS ABOUT SAFETY OR SOMEBODY'S GONNA DIE. And STAND UP AND SAY NO TO THE BOSS WHEN HE SAYS IT'S OK, AND YOU KNOW BETTER.

  • by Serious Simon (701084) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @01:52PM (#8212873)
    If such a mission, close to home, is considered too much of a risk to astronaut lives, then I have to wonder about plans for a manned Mars expedition.
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @01:53PM (#8212879) Homepage
    There's way too much NASA for the amount of metal it puts into space. NASA needs to close and downsize a few centers.

    Ames should be cut back to a wind tunnel operation. Slidell (now "the Stennis Space Center", a "multi-agency center for 30 resident agencies"), should be sold off to a private developer. The "Independent Verification and Validation Facility" in West Virginia should be consolidated with some NASA facility that needs its services. Goddard needs some major cutbacks. (Goddard just awarded a $34 million contract for "conference support, duplicating, computer graphics, publication, and documentation" on a cost plus award fee basis. Then they issued a press release about it.)

    NASA's non-flight research should be funded through the National Science Foundation. Environmental resarch should be moved to the EPA. In fact, even space science should go through NSF. NASA's job should be limited to flight hardware and support systems.

    If NASA got rid of about half its organization, and insisted that the remaining half build stuff that flies, they might get somewhere.

  • by rctay (718547) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @02:11PM (#8213024)
    It's not the personnel, it's the spacecraft. The program can't afford to lose another shuttle or it will be scrapped. Congress will never approve building another one of these old birds and we are a decade away from having a replacement. We have barely started the basic R&D for a suitable replacement. Even with unlimited resources it would take 6 years to get a test flight on a new vehicle.
  • Depressing! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mikeboone (163222) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @02:13PM (#8213050) Homepage Journal
    People landed on the moon a few years before I was born. I grew up to the early space shuttle program and fantastic photos from Voyager. Back then, I figured we be back to the moon by 2000 and to mars by 2010. Surely the common man would have been able to experience earth orbit by then.

    Here we are in 2004 and basically nothing new has happened with manned space exploration. It's depressing to think that it'll take until 2020 just to get back to the moon! Will humans even reach Mars in my lifetime now?

    All those dollars wasted on blowing up Iraq that could've been put toward much grander goals in space!

    I guess I need to start building a Mars transport in my garage since nobody else is going to bother.
  • by triumphDriver (600794) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @02:22PM (#8213116)
    What we should do is ASK those who have to fly the shuttle. We have heard a great deal from the leadership at NASA and everyone else. What do the rank and file Astronauts think? Is it worth the risk do they want to fly on the Shuttle?

    • John Grunsfeld, one of NASA's head astronauts, has serviced Hubble twice previously, and has volunteered himself to go on the SM04 mission.

      He used to be an astronomer (maybe he still is) so he knows the value of the Hubble.

      Interestingly, he also said that he will go to Hubble, but won't go to ISS! Ie, he knows Hubble is more scientifically and technologically important than ISS.

  • Give me a break.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by CXI (46706) on Saturday February 07, 2004 @04:39PM (#8214076) Homepage
    Oh, come on, the safety issues are NOT nonsense. In order to go to Hubble, they would need to have two shuttles ready to launch at the same time so they can go up and rescue the first shuttle if it has a problem. If they both have problems, then they are both screwed. And no, you can't get to the space station from Hubble's orbit. Now, if they go to the space station, they can at least live up there until other launch vehicles come and rescue them. The safety concerns are completely valid.
  • Let's face it. Bush's new plan is nothing more than militarization of space. Any space mission is to achieve this goal. Everything else is totally worthless. So, it should not come as a surprise that the US govt is ditching its Hubble Telescope, possibly the Station Station in the future, and maybe even the Mars missions (who cares about Mars when putting weapons in space is a higher priority?).

    Here is an editorial [wsws.org] on the recently announced space plan by Bush. Conservatives might want to stay away since its from a socialist web site but if you are open, check it out.

    Sivaram Velauthapillai

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