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Space Science

NASA Seeks Proposals For Hubble Robotic Servicing 182

Posted by simoniker
from the beavis-and-butthead-delighted dept.
hcg50a writes "SpaceFlight Now has an article about NASA asking for proposals to mount a robotic mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. Such a Hubble-servicing mission would occur toward the end of calendar year 2007. If you like politics mixed with your spaceflight, you can read NASA Administrator O'Keefe's speech in which the announcement was made."
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NASA Seeks Proposals For Hubble Robotic Servicing

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  • Hmmm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 03, 2004 @06:39AM (#9323859)
    Would be funny if some of the Battlebot teams got together and made a proposal. The robotic module gets closer and closer....then suddenly, a huge blade whips out and slices the Hubble in half! PWN3D!!!
  • by Lord Grey (463613) * on Thursday June 03, 2004 @06:45AM (#9323874)
    The great part of this plan is that it gives NASA a specific goal for implementing robotic repair/servicing. They get to use the project as a testing ground for new technologies, some of which will surely make their way into other future missions. Costs will go down for "routine" orbital missions that can be automated, allowing us to do more in near space and saving the money for other missions demanding astronauts.
    • by HBI (604924) <kparadine AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday June 03, 2004 @07:55AM (#9324126) Homepage Journal
      You'd be hard pressed to find a mission that demands an astronaut on anything that we reasonably can do in the next 10 years.

      I like space flight and the whole prospect of same, but think like a bean counter for a moment. This is fluff.

      If I _weren't_ interested in space flight, i'd recommend axing all but a tiny bit of NASA's budget. They don't do much that is useful. Chop out the whole manned space program at the very least. They invested their dollars in a very fragile spacecraft combining all the worst elements of a solid-fueled and liquid fueled rocket. Moreover they took on all the limitations of the airplane. 5 operational craft were constructed, two have been lost. The suggestion is that each craft has a lifespan on the order of 25 flights. All failures to date have been catastrophic, with 7 fatalities apiece.

      This is really hard to justify particularly considering that at least Atlantis and Discovery are close to EOL based upon our past experience. Two more disasters to look forward to. It's hard to escape the conclusion that the Shuttle was a flawed design and should not have been built.

      While NASA may fly a Shuttle again, the program will never be back 'on track'. I think this is what O'Keefe keeps telling us. The US might wish to keep the *possibility* of using a Shuttle available for military reasons or as an ISS rescue, the program is fundamentally dead. The Shuttle will be retired when some other manned vehicle is made available in the mid-2010s. Hopefully a non-reusable, proven capsule design.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        "They don't do much that is useful. "

        Excuse me? They absorb the huge surplus of engineers that universities pump out every year. It's a form of welfare. Do you really think that we (the human race) need that many engineers? Where are they gonna go? The other big welfare-for-engineers domain is defense.
      • by prgrmr (568806) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @08:50AM (#9324393) Journal
        You'd be hard pressed to find a mission that demands an astronaut on anything that we reasonably can do in the next 10 years

        If you truly believe that, then you have completely missed the point of going to space at all.

        Moreover they took on all the limitations of the airplane. 5 operational craft were constructed, two have been lost. The suggestion is that each craft has a lifespan on the order of 25 flights. All failures to date have been catastrophic, with 7 fatalities apiece.

        One of the major problems of the space shuttle was that they couldn't fly it enough. How many test flights do you think a fighter plane gets before it goes into production? How many test flights of the shuttle were there? 3 or 4?

        Furthermore, for you to say that all of the failures have been "catastrophic" is blatantly incorrect. They had problems with the tiles from day one that were not catastrophic. They had electrical problems, engine problems of various types and other equipment problems. There have been very few flights that have not had at least one failure of one component or piece of equipment. It's the nature of mechanical and electrical systems to fail at some point and that is to be expected, anticipated, and planned for. NASA does this, for the very most part. The catastrophic failures to date have been with those components for which there were not backups and no failsafe alternatives. That is the part they need to better identify: to overcome the engineering bias that produces blindspots in our perception of what can and cannot reasonably be conisdered a potential single point of failure.
        • The project was mismanaged. You're trying to twist words around to prove out that it wasn't NASA's fault. There's plenty of blame to go around, but the project was mismanaged and ill-advised. The nature of the launch vehicle was dominated by political considerations, not ones of survivability and quality.

          The loss of tiles was not a failure. It was a loss of tiles. A failure is when the craft breaks up and the mission fails.

          • I never said that the Challenger and Columbia failures weren't NASA's fault, or that decisions weren't overly politicized. What I should have made more clear is that you are an idiot if you think the project was "ill-advised". The knowledge we have gained on many fronts has been huge, and in most cases, unobtainable any other way.

            The nature of the launch vehicle was dominated by political considerations, not ones of survivability and quality

            Source? Attribution? First and foremost, You need to decoup
            • Ad hominem point reached - conversation ends.

              You are a NASA shill.
        • I couldn't agree more with your statement that the shuttle wasn't flown enough and deemed "operational" too quickly.

          In fact, one of the CAIB members wrote a follow up piece called Beyond the Widget: Columbia Accident Lessons Affirmed [spaceref.com] which, in part, says:

          NASA allowed the shuttle to effectively transition from a research and development system to operational status, despite the fact that prior to the Columbia tragedy there had only been 111 successful shuttle flights. In contrast, the Air Force's F/A-

      • Uh, capsules were reusable. You slapped on a new ablative heat shield, among other things, and then it was ready to go.
        • If a reliable, reusable capsule were devised, i'm all for it.

          I note that such technology hasn't been demonstrated in real life, possibly because of display value of the capsules.
  • by JessLeah (625838) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @06:45AM (#9323878)
    This is getting fucking RIDICULOUS. The astronauts who go up into space do so with full knowledge of the fact that they might not return alive. Yet despite the danger, there are many who are willing to risk their necks. Just send a fucking shuttle! I'd like to know what mental midget suggested that we shouldn't send humans into space in the shuttle any more, since it's "risky". (And was this individual formerly an insurance adjuster, a lawyer, or some other sort of simple-minded human scum?)
    • hey!
      It isnt jus the lost of life that is a problem! Even greater problem is that the Reputation of NASAis at stake.
      People would then only be talking that " The NASA doesnt know to b ring back their people alive... -so would other countries comment!
    • by old man of the c (515198) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @06:51AM (#9323899)
      NASA is obviously scared to death of another Challenger / Columbia tragedy. They came out looking totally inept in both of those incidents. I believe they fear they would lose all support from the public and (arguably more important) congress if more astronauts are lost. I'm not saying that is the right attitude. It's kind of like saying "I'm afraid of being killed in an automobile accident, so I am going to stop driving."
      • What the fuck is the point of NASA -existing- if they aren't doing human space travel? Commercial entities are already doing unmanned stuff in space (read: satellites out the wazoo) better and cheaper than NASA ever could. NASA's great claim to fame is its achievements with humans in space-- not robots! It's no big deal to put a 'bot in space (unless that 'bot is something spectacular like Hubble), but landing men on the moon is something special...
        • Simply put: the way that the comercial sector has surpased NASA at unmaned objects in Earth orbit, so will the private sector surpass them in human exploration.

          Once the technology is in place, and enough CEOs get it in their heads that it's feasible, you'll start to see off-world resource exploitation. The side-effect of that exploitation, of course, is human exploration of the solar system.

          NASA is doomed, end of story.
          • Once the technology is in place, and enough CEOs get it in their heads that it's feasible, you'll start to see off-world resource exploitation.

            Yes, but at what cost?

            Do we really want a corporate death-grip on space exploration and, in time, resource exploitation? Governments we can change by voting, corporate boards we can't (unless we can afford to buy a crapload of stocks in the said corp).

          • Fine... (Score:2, Funny)

            by Short Circuit (52384)
            Fine, just so long as we don't get a Post Terran Minerals Corporation.
          • Once the technology is in place, and enough CEOs get it in their heads that it's feasible, you'll start to see off-world resource exploitation.
            It's a chicken-and-egg problem. You won't get the technology unless there is profit to be seen, yet you can't see the profit until you know what they technology will cost.

            In addition, there is *nothing* in space worth fetching, even if the launch and recovery costs were a tenth or a hundreth of current costs.

        • Ah, yes, but to the robot-space-exploration mob, who now after two shuttle disasters are unfortunately winning the fight for politicians' hearts, it is heresy to claim that there are tasks that humans do better than robots. It's the classical cheapskate argument that appeals to the PHBs: instead of sending a human up in space we can send so and so many robots for the same money and no risk of a PR fallout.

          And then they wonder why the public finds space exploration boring and don't want to pay for their re

          • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 03, 2004 @07:19AM (#9323977)
            I've got news for you. The most exciting thing humans have ever done in space - the moon missions - was exciting exactly once. By the Apollo 12 mission, lots of people were complaining to the TV networks that their programmes weren't on because of all the boring moon stuff. Apollo 13 raised the figures again, but I don't think you're really calling for an "all disaster, all the time" approach to manned spaceflight, are you?

            Modern day manned spaceflight is as boring as you like. "The crew are a mathematician, a different kind of mathematician, and a statistician" pretty much sums it up. Who cares?

            So manned spaceflight is

            a) a regular PR disaster
            b) boring when it isn't being disastrous
            c) scientifically pointless

            whereas robotic spaceflight is

            a) not a disaster
            b) no more boring than manned spaceflight
            c) scientifically useful

            Robots win!
            • a) a regular PR disaster b) boring when it isn't being disastrous c) scientifically pointless

              And the reason for the boredom couldn't just happen to be that we're still loitering around in LEO?

            • by jpellino (202698) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @08:54AM (#9324427)
              Space flight right now is about as dangerous as it would be expected to be. In terms of experimental flight, the disaster rate is what experimental pilots are used to. And yes, all astronauts know the risks and have accepted them. I'd go tomorrow.

              People die driving race cars each year to what end? Dale Earnhart is practially a saint [daleearnhardtinc.com]. We're willing to pour our hearts out and spend billions each year to shove more people into the breach in order to turn left for four hours. So manned space flight is hardly the most risky endeavor we undertake with arguably more return. Where does NASCAR or CART get us? Cars that can do even more speed than is legally allowed? No - they push the envelope of car technology. Ditto all spaceflight. Swap out the Tallageda with RC cars and tell me how many people will show up... Race car drivers are brave and passionate and accept the risks. Ditto astronauts.

              It's not about ratings. What the networks think about space missions is moot - there's NASA TV, so the networks are out of the picture. 90% of what NSF and NIH funds is boring and tedious to the general public - but there are people alive today because of it.

              As far as robotics is concerned, it's be nice to know what they're aiming for - remember the Solar Max and both Hubble missions? Lots of human decision making involved, improvisation and creativity - if they're talking telerobotics (as in telerobotic surgery) then they've got a prayer. But if anyone has in their mind that they're going to line up autonomous robots to give the Hubble a new lease, then they need to go back to the DARPA challenge and remember that Apollo 11 would have been just another crater on the moon with a robot at the helm instead of human pilots who could avert the near disaster. Robots are better at some things - humans are better at some things. Use them both appropriately, drop the prejudices and accept the risks of exploration.

      • Yep, NASA and O'Keefe have become paranoid by the risks. O'Keefe even brought up the criticism of him that he was "risk-adverse". How did he address it? By beating the fact that 7 astronauts were lost on Columbia into the audience's skulls. (I was there, it was disgusting to watch. It was like the Bush Administration using 9/11 and terrorism to justify pretty much everything it wants to do.) In other words, he told us WHY he was risk-adverse, he didn't argue that he wasn't.

        However, I'm predicting as
        • Yep, NASA and O'Keefe have become paranoid by the risks. O'Keefe even brought up the criticism of him that he was "risk-adverse". How did he address it? By beating the fact that 7 astronauts were lost on Columbia into the audience's skulls.
          Maybe you were not on this planet last February, so I'll catch you up; NASA and Mr O'Keefe were crucified in the media, by Congress, and in public opinion, for not being risk averse.
          • And your point is what? That this somehow automagically makes him not risk adverse now?

            No, it explains *why* he got this way, perhaps. But it doesn't address the criticism which amounts, in effect, to saying that he's reacted too far the other way now.

            It's important to learn from your mistakes. But make sure that you learn the *right* lessons.
            • It's important to learn from your mistakes. But make sure that you learn the *right* lessons.
              And the lesson here seems to be 'be cautious and risk averse, unless it actually means placing limits on what we can do, then throw caution and common sense to the wind'.
    • I fully agree.

      Everybody has become so obsessed with safety that it's starting to hinder our progress as a species. Not only in the field of exploration but in medical sciences and new drug development, too.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 03, 2004 @06:59AM (#9323921)
      The simple fact that people cost more is why robots are a better solution. Sending up humans in a life sustaining environment (shuttle) requires a lot of preparation and money with the danger concerns aside. Sending up a one way robot on a rocket is muchos cheaper by many magnitudes.
      • Ah, I was waiting for the cheapskate argument to show up.

        Robots do not have human intuition and a desk-jockey running a probe remotely doesn't have the situational awareness required for innovative on-spot decisions.

        Read Man on the Moon [amazon.co.uk] and tell me that human mind isn't the most valuable instrument in off world exploration.

      • Exactly what I was going to say, Mr. AC.

        The "send a fucking human" sentiment is just that: emotional sentiment. People like to romanticize about other people like them doing StarTrekkie things that they can relate to, and wish to be doing themselves one day (in human form). Most people are naturally bio-chauvinists, especially in the face of increasingly efficient robotics [blogspot.com].

        --

        • Nice trivialization there: "Emotional sentiment".

          Demanding human space exploration has nothing to do with sentiment. 1) There are tasks robots can never accomplish (read my post above), 2) The sooner we master the art and science of getting off this planet, the better our chances for survival as a species are. We must colonize other planets - not tomorrow but NOW!

          Sending out robots and probes is nice armchair exploration, but it won't help us when (not if) the next extinction level event hits the Earth.

    • "I'd like to know what mental midget suggested that we shouldn't send humans into space in the shuttle any more, since it's "risky"."

      Blame Carly!!!!!!
      Blame George!!!!
      Blame the laywers!!!

      And blame the fact that an outsourced droid doesn't have family that can sue if it goes out in a blaze of glory.
  • More info here (Score:5, Informative)

    by Saluton_Mondo (728648) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @06:48AM (#9323887)
    BBC is also following the story [bbc.co.uk]... IMHO if we have the means, then Hubble should be saved.
  • by turgid (580780) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @06:49AM (#9323893) Journal
    Now, if only they would make some robots to operate and maintain the International Space Station, they wouldn't have to risk peoples' lives going there for political reasons, and they can wait until they have developed a safer and cheaper launcher and retire the travesty of engineering unholiness that is the Space Shuttle.

    Or they could just pay the Russians to launch all their astronauts...

    • Why pay the Russians when you've got Scaled Composites [scaled.com] going up there anyway?

      Seriously, this sort of thing looks like a better revenue stream than prizes and 'space tourism' for Scaled to be aiming at, long term.
    • they can wait until they have developed a safer and cheaper launcher and retire the travesty of engineering unholiness that is the Space Shuttle.

      You could have developed a better reusable space vehicle in 1981, could you?

      It's not like NASA thinks the shuttle is the only space vehicle we'll ever need. They are working on the shuttle's successor but it takes a lot of time to develop these things. And really, a large number of problems with the shuttle were maintenance issues, not design issues. No matt

      • And really, a large number of problems with the shuttle were maintenance issues, not design issues.

        I have to disagree to an extent, although there were a lot of maintenance issues, like the O-Rings that doomed Challenger it's the only manned launch system in history to use solid-fuel boosters (which were necessary because of the weight/cargo requirements from the USAF); consequently, there's basicailly no survivable abort scenario while the solids are firing if one fails or malfunctions before separation.

        • (which were necessary because of the weight/cargo requirements from the USAF)

          No. They were necessary due to budget cuts in the Shuttle.

          The Shuttle cannot fly at all without the extra boost, but they could have been built just as easily with liquid fuel boosters. But liquid fuel boosters wouldn't have been "reusable" enough to be justified within the context of a "reusable" vehicle.

          And a manned booster (as conceived in early shuttle concepts) was more expensive than Congress was willing to consider.

          Th

          • The correct answer was to build twenty-thirty of them, fly them once a week (only once in six months per shuttle), and build a real space station (52 flights per year, and ~25t per flight, for five years is a damn big station, compared to what we'll have). Then let the crew repair the station as needed while we start on the Mars/Venus missions, plus follow-on Lunar missions, Lunar base, etc.

            And look where we (the human race) are now :-(

          • You are right, it was the money, not the Air Force (for once) when it came to the boosters:

            "The winged S-IC soon would die as well, for it appeared more costly than the pressure-fed reusable booster which, though it might look and fly like an ugly duckling, was a graceful swan in the realm of budgets, and would survive into the next round of designs. This round would resurrect the solid-propellant booster, and would determine the shape of the Shuttle in the form that would actually be built."

            From The Sp [nasa.gov]

      • You could have developed a better reusable space vehicle in 1981, could you?

        By 1981 when the shuttle first flew, yes.

        Even in the 1970's yes too. The problem with the shuttle is it tries to do too many jobs all at once, and it does them in the most complicated and expensive ways possible.

        As for developing new craft, from what I can see projects keep getting cut for political reasons and they try to eek another few years out of the already ancient shuttles.

        It's not just the space industry that this sort of

      • You could have developed a better reusable space vehicle in 1981, could you?

        She didn't say "resuable space vehicle". The words were "safer and cheaper launcher".

        Making it "reusable" is actually a major design flaw that results in a vehicle that is both more expensive and more dangerous. That fact was obvious to engineers in 1979, but politicians (following the lead of Richard Nixon) ignored reality in the hope it would go away.

        Before the STS was even built, we already had superior launchers: the Satu
      • You could have developed a better reusable space vehicle in 1981, could you?

        Why, no. On the other hand, I wouldn't have pretended it was up to routine use as a launch vehicle, instead of being an X project precursor to a real shuttle.

        If the program had been operated from that attitude, it's likely the Challenger disaster would have never happened, since O-ring degredation would have been seen as an important discovery related to the mission ("Hey, look at this bit of data the flights have turned up!") i
    • Or they could just pay the Russians to launch all their astronauts...
      Why? Historically the Soyuz (capsule) has the same catastrophic failure rate as the Shuttle, and a *much* higher rate of accidents causing loss of mission or placing the astronauts lives in significant danger.
  • by Linus Sixpack (709619) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @06:55AM (#9323909) Journal
    Another article I read mentioned decomissioning a lot. NASA needs to attach some sort of engine to hubble to be able to crash it safely where it wont kill anyone.

    I hope they are able to service it, but I think they might be more concerned with how its going to fall.

    ls
    • by acceber (777067) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @07:08AM (#9323942)
      I hope they are able to service it, but I think they might be more concerned with how its going to fall.

      Once the Webb telescope is launched ~2010, the Hubble will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere around that time, depending on the impact of the Sun on the upper atmosphere.
      It is expected to burn up on re-entry although the main mirror probably won't which could result in casualties.

      To have a controlled landing, NASA were planning to attach a propulsion module to the satellite - but that requires a servicing mission which is of course currently the issue being hotly debated. And it seems NASA doesn't even have the technology to do that, only Russia does.

      • Once the Webb telescope is launched ~2010, the Hubble will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere around that time, depending on the impact of the Sun on the upper atmosphere.

        Well, actually, the Hubble will re-enter whether or not a replacement is launched.

      • To have a controlled landing, NASA were planning to attach a propulsion module to the satellite - but that requires a servicing mission which is of course currently the issue being hotly debated. And it seems NASA doesn't even have the technology to do that, only Russia does.
        Actually, Russia doesn't either. Their method of automated docking requires active systems on both units involved. Hubble lacks those active systems.
  • Heh heh heh (Score:1, Funny)

    by dmayle (200765)

    (Picture Beavis and Butthead)

    Heh heh heh... Did he just say robotic servicing? Huh huh...

  • Robots or humans? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zarks (783916) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @07:07AM (#9323938)
    They definetly should continue to maintain hubble, the amazing pictures it sends back are well worth it. If a robot can do it just as well as a human then there is no point in risking astronauts lives for no reason. If however it can't be then I think it is worth a small risk to send a few astronauts up there. If NASA are too concerned with risks and tiny chances of things going wrong then they will never be able to do anything worthwhile with people in space.
  • by Timesprout (579035) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @07:13AM (#9323958)
    has already volunteered. He says he wants to make Hubble the cleanest telescope in space.
  • Given that we allready know how to build one, can it be that hard?

    Although I still don't see why the James Web scope is so far away...

  • ...are the politics in O'keefe's speech? I didn't see any, save the following:

    "Finally, NASA's space astronomy activities are integral to the President's vision of extending humanity's exploration and discovery horizons. As we pursue this vision, we will continue to build space-based telescopes to expand our capabilities."

    does that make it political?
  • Nuts (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pubjames (468013) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @07:28AM (#9324010)
    Finally, NASA's space astronomy activities are integral to the President's vision of extending humanity's exploration and discovery horizons.

    I hate how everything has to be stated as if it was Bush's ideas and vision that pushes the country. Why couldn't he say "NASA's space astronomy activities are integral to our vision of extending humanity's exploration and discovery horizons." Bush is neither scientist nor visionary.

    It's like the joke that Bush is supreme commander of American troops -- a man who has no real military experience. If I was in the armed services I would find that insulting.
    • Well, he gets the blame for everything, why not the credit?
    • You shouldn't find it insulting. The US has a long, long history of civilian control of the military, and this is why we have never had so much as the tiniest hint of a military coup since the country was founded. The fact that the President, whoever he may be, is commander in chief of the military is a supremely good thing.
      • What about that whole thing with General 'Buck' Turgidson? Huh? Purity of Essence? The russians and the doomsday machine? HUH?

        http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057012/ if you just heard a wooshing sound.
        • I did just hear a wooshing sound; I don't understand how Dr. Strangelove is a counter-example to HegimoH's observation. The role of the president in that movie seems to underscore his point: Gen. Buck Turgidson, and Gen. Jack D. Ripper were psycopaths, and the president was the only one able to stop them. That movie, by the way, gets better every time I see it.
    • by bwy (726112)
      It's like the joke that Bush is supreme commander of American troops -- a man who has no real military experience. If I was in the armed services I would find that insulting.

      If Bush had served in the Military as say, a pilot, for 20 years, you'd be saying how he wasn't qualified to do anything BUT be Commander in Chief. You'd say he had no experience running a large organization. Leaders, whether politicians or CEO's, need to have qualities of their own. To be successful, The CEO of Microsoft or Sun d
    • It's like the joke that Bush is supreme commander of American troops -- a man who has no real military experience. If I was in the armed services I would find that insulting.

      Mr. Bush did not serve on active duty, but 3+ years as a successful wartime president counts for a lot. If you had lived during his time I am sure you would have criticized Lincoln for the same thing. The Commander-In-Chief in the U.S. is a civilian by design. President Bush's war on terror has been nothing short of heroic.

    • It's like the joke that Bush is supreme commander of American troops -- a man who has no real military experience. If I was in the armed services I would find that insulting.

      Why?

      It would be absurd to expect any President to have experience in every single aspect of government. This is why a President has a Cabinet, and hires all manner of advisors. The President isn't an MD--how can he make decisions on health policy? The President definitely isn't a PhD--how can he make decisions related to research

    • It's like the joke that Bush is supreme commander of American troops -- a man who has no real military experience. If I was in the armed services I would find that insulting.

      Some might, but I think that anyone who has been in the military long enough has had the importance of the military being under civilian control impressed upon them enough that while they may bristle if their advice is unheeded, they understand why it is so.
  • I believe we as a nation and world you proceed with caution with the endevour of Robotics servicing. Eventually I can see automated stations to be an in space launch bed for satelites as well as increasing human missions. First I feel we need to develop robotic repair vehicles slowly. Create a vehicle send it up but also send up the human factor as well. I would suggest testing this robotic repair vehicle on a "safe" satelite that needs maintanence that a normal human shuttle mission would do. Give us the o
    • by Minna Kirai (624281) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @12:01PM (#9326522)
      I would suggest testing this robotic repair vehicle on a "safe" satelite that needs maintanence that a normal human shuttle mission would do.

      Uh, there is no such thing as a "normal shuttle mission" anymore. Shuttle missions are almost completely over. Maybe a few more trips to the ISS, but you will never again see a shuttle sent to service a satellite. (Servicing satellites is nearly worthless anyhow. The Hubble is the only satellite in history with a replacement cost greater than a traditional shuttle mission)

      (though I don't know the feasability of this and docking with the ISS)

      The feasibility is: None. The ISS is just too far away from the Hubble. You can't reasonably visit them both in a single trip (without a huge, huge expense of carrying extra fuel "just in case").

      There's just no reason to think about bringing a robot to the ISS. If the robot fails somehow, tough. Let it drift or fall or whatever, it's no matter to us. The price of the robot body itself is trivial next to the retrieval cost.

      Oddly enough we are a throw away society, we still use booster rockets that are disposible.(I know that part of the booster rocket system is reusable but I don't remember which of the top of my head. is it the small ones?)

      It's not "Oddly", it's a small island of sanity in a wasteful space program. The shuttle's boosters are disposable because it's just cheaper that way. For some things, refilling and refurbishing is more expensive (and far more risky) than building a new one. If more of the shuttle had been disposable, then the whole 30-year project budget would've been much less. (Except that then it wouldn't be called a "shuttle", because shuttles are by definition reused)

      Please NASA do not make this a one use robot, I bet over time it would cost more money.

      You bet wrong. The expensive thing about a robot isn't building the actual machine- those guys from Monster Garage could handle that in a few weeks. The real hard work is the design, for both hardware and "AI" software.
      • Thanks for the comments. Though you took "(though I don't know the feasability of this and docking with the ISS)" out of context. I was refering to the safety of an ion drive docking with the ISS. Also let me clarify that my suggestion does not include a manned mission to the hubble but rather a robot because I am aware of the orbit and distance of hubble in relation to the ISS. An Ion drive system gives more thrust to fuel consumption then a traditional hydrogen drive. The problem is that an ion drive is s
  • by howman (170527) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @07:51AM (#9324115)
    The article leaves the possibilitys open for unmanned launch and repair/upgrade systems to be developed. I can see some of the teams from the autonomous challange, as covered to death here on /. in recent months, being quite interested in developing this technology.
    I am all for sending people into space as being there is part of the point, but I am very interested in the technology that will come out of these proposals over the next 20 years.
    If we look at some of the things that have made their way into our homes thanks to r+d from NASA, I can see a time when not only is may car built a la Minority report Lexus, but it can be repaired just as easily in the same fashion.
    Here, in Japan, we have these great car washes that you park your car under and they move from the front to the back cleaning and then drying. I don't know if they are around the US, I have not seen any in Canada, but it would be nice , when my car breaks down, or that crazy useless check engine light comes on, if I can just pull into one of these things, pop in my warranty card, and have the machine fix whatever is wrong with it.
    granted lots of hard working people, as we see the workforce right now, would lose their jobs if it were to all of a sudden come into being, but given time and reclasification of jobs, I think that in the same way typesetters became typests become data entry clerks, assembly line workers will become robotic assembly line technitions.
    On another note... I started to fully understand 'whither' about three quarters of the way through his speech...
  • by gdesignrr (710134) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @08:02AM (#9324150)
    While a custom robot designed to repair the Hubble sounds cool, how much is something like that really going to cost, compared to ... say... a new Hubble?
    • Build another Hubble, you've just compounded the problem. The new Hubble will require servicing, planned and unplanned.

      Build/develope a robotic servicing system, you've opened up hundreds of servicing opportunities in space.

      Hubble cost about 1.5 billion and has a yearly cost of about 250 million.

    • Probably not that much since NASA has been working on robotics/telepresence for some time now. Although the NASA's Telerobotics [nasa.gov] program was shut down in 1997, but the research (at least according to this website) was transferred to other individual programs. I assume one of the flagship programs now is the Robonaut [nasa.gov] now in development.
    • At the AAS meeting, someone said to me that -- having seen the cost estimates on the robotic repair mission -- it would, in fact, be cheaper to build and launch a new HST. We could use the spare parts, including Kodak's backup mirror (the one that DIDN'T have the flaw) and the good gyros. Hell, sending astronauts there would be cheaper than the robotic mission. (A typical shuttle flight costs about $200 million, as I recall.)

      On the one had, I applaude NASA's attempt to get the robotic technology to this
  • Does anyone else notice maybe a start to "skynet"

    The robots would have to be decently smart to take care of things. Then, if this works we have them do all our space works. The moon (needs to be even smarter) and mars (they just have to be straight up AI). Is this the beginning? And if so, where the hell is john conner at to stop this?
  • by Jonsey (593310) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @09:29AM (#9324722) Journal
    Latency to LEO isn't more than about 300ms (I remember that Sattelite internet access has at least a 250ms latency, and IIRC the sats for that are higher up.

    Regardless, while playing around with that much latency isn't fun, it's also not too hard to beam signals up that far... Why don't we just use a "robot" in the battle-bot sense for this, and have an R/C fixer go up there?

    I mean, it's not nearly as nifty, but it's also pretty fool-proof compared to sending up an AI. Maybe a mix approach would work, like our Mars Rovers, or maybe after the gyros & whatnot are fixed on hubble, we let it go AI on other less-critical repairs?

    Sound logical to anyone else?
    • > Latency to LEO isn't more than about 300ms (I remember that Sattelite internet access has at least a 250ms latency, and IIRC the sats for that are higher up.

      All NASA comms for this misison will go through TDRS. The major delay for TDRS comms isn't the radio waves, it's the processing on each end. Through TDRS, the communications delay is on the order of 2-3 seconds.

      > I mean, it's not nearly as nifty, but it's also pretty fool-proof compared to sending up an AI.

      Actually if you read closely O'Keefe
  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @10:32AM (#9325362)

    I don't think so. We haven't done that for a very long time.

    I'm not sure we've ever done that, frankly.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is a very important opportunity to demonstrate robotic servicing. Satellite lifetimes are usually limited by running out of fuel. Many satellites are in geostationary orbit where the shuttle cannot reach them for servicing. Some satellites are launched into the wrong orbits or fail in simple ways. The current approach to these problems is to replace the satellite. Many of them cost hundreds of millions of dollars to replace. A space based satellite servicing craft could refuel, repair, upgrade, an
  • Did anyone else notice the due date for proposals? It's 6 weeks from now! Does that strike anyone else as being a bit.. hurried? The way things in aerospace usually go, it takes companies 6 weeks just to pick out what kind of slick, glossy folder they want to put the proposal in.

    So is NASA trying to follow the Scaled Composites lead of minimizing paperwork (unlikely, IMO, it's NASA after all) or do they know somethng about the urgency of getting this mission done that we don't?
  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday June 03, 2004 @12:08PM (#9326618) Homepage
    NASA threw $300 million at the Flight Telerobotic Servicer [astronautix.com] project in the 1990s. That project had roughtly the same spec this one does - a 4-year project to develop a remotely controlled robot for satellite maintenance.

    Total failure. Not even a ground-based prototype. Lots of studies and papers on components, but no real results. It's so NASA.

    The project manager on that project is still on the NASA payroll. That, too, is so NASA.

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