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Space Science

Canadian Robot Could Rescue Hubble 298

Posted by timothy
from the mounties-in-space dept.
NETHED writes "We have all seen Stories about The Hubble Space Telescope and its current problems. Since then, NASA has okayed the fix of the HST. It seems that America's neighbor to the North has some answers. Dextre to the rescue. The mission would not be decided upon until next summer says Sean O'Keefe. It seems that NASA saw this as a good way to listen to the public for about 1.6 billion dollars." Update: 08/11 15:45 GMT by T : Reader Michael Mol dug up a link with a more technical explanation of Dextre, noting "It looks like Dextre's normally supposed to be attached to something before it performs work."
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Canadian Robot Could Rescue Hubble

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  • by MarkEst1973 (769601) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @10:24AM (#9939802)
    I'm quite glad that public outcry over abandoning Hubble has changed NASA's plan for the space telescope.

    It was poor timing on NASA's part, really, because just when the latest and greatest pics from Hubble were gaining mass popularity, they wanted to pull the plug. Maybe O'Keefe isn't the savviest politician?

    The HST is one of the coolest tools we have for exploration. I'm rather glad that it will be serviced, and thanks to our country's hat (Canada) for stepping up.

  • by GillBates0 (664202) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @10:24AM (#9939805) Homepage Journal
    doesn't show up to throw a wrench in the works.
  • Other than this project and the arm for the ISS (and possibly the shuttle) is there anything else that Canada has put into space? Are they particularly good at robotics?
    • by fitten (521191) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @10:30AM (#9939884)
      There are some good robotics folks in Canada. Most notably are the Canadarm (robotic arm on the Shuttle) and a few deep diving ocean exploration vehicles that have very advanced robotic arms and such on them (one of which, with some cosmetic changes, was used in "The Abyss").
      • However, most of our (Canada's) Research has gone into underwater exploration. This only makes sense since over 80% of our border is coastline. This is where to look for examples of canadian robotics.

        Other examples of advances from canadians is some of the more advanced Meterology satallites that have been designed and developed here in our humble country.

        For some references you can check out..
        The ISE [subsea.org] Laval University [ulaval.ca]
        and a list of others [umass.edu]
      • wow,t he guy that had the brilliant marketting idea to name it the CANADArm must be really pissed you didn't notice that.

        too bar "robot" and "fixer-roboto thingie" dont start with an A so they can do the same thing...

        maybe we'll see the CANADAdvanced roboto thingie"
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @10:35AM (#9939922)
      You need to read up on Canada's history in space. We put up the first commercial communications satellite (no bouncing signals off of a baloon!), have the worlds most powerful communications satellites, built a synthetic aperture radar satellite with such precise imaging capabilities that the US refused to launch it, and the list goes on.
      • by theonomist (442009) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @11:45AM (#9940589) Homepage

        Let's not forget another Canadian technological triumph, the Avro Arrow.

        According to the most reliable sources [canada.gc.ca] I've been able to find, the Avro Arrow...

        1. Was the first fly-by-wire aircraft.
        2. Was the first MACH2+ production aircraft.
        3. Invented baseball.
        4. Painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
        5. Made the Kessel Run in under twelventeen parsecs, provided that it got a good night's sleep and a running start.
        6. Actually did know that a parsec is a unit of distance rather than time, but, being Canadian, was too polite to point out the error.
        7. Ran Linux.
        8. Was assembled entirely using those Robertson things.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yes, Canada was in fact the third country in space after the Russians and Americans. We were also the first country to have commercial geostationary satelities in space.

      Here's a site with a brief timeline and notes aboot Canada in space [members.shaw.ca]
    • The robotic arms on the mars rovers are also Canadian. It seems like it's their specialty, and NASA is always full of praise of these tools.
  • by isa-kuruption (317695) <kuruption@kuru[ ]on.net ['pti' in gap]> on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @10:25AM (#9939813) Homepage
    Dextre looks like a Lego bot. Is this how NASA plans to save money?
  • by mantera (685223) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @10:25AM (#9939814)

    A hope that Dextre won't be a prank in the good ol' tradition of Canadian sense of humor.

  • Taking Apart Hubble (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Short Circuit (52384) * <mikemol@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @10:25AM (#9939818) Homepage Journal
    Great, but will it be able to service a device that wasn't built to be taken apart?

    The Hubble wasn't designed to be entirely serviceable...that led to problems with previous servicing missions, most notably replacing the old defective mirror.

    It looks like Dextre [space.gc.ca] is supposed to be mounted to something before operating. Perhaps they're planning on a free controlled platform?
    • by nuggz (69912)
      Dextre is a very versatile robotic tool. It can work solo, fixed to one of the base points (known as power data grapple fixtures) along the side of the Station or on the Mobile Base System.

      From the link you provided.
      I'd assume it is running solo.
    • The Hubble wasn't designed to be entirely serviceable...that led to problems with previous servicing missions, most notably replacing the old defective mirror.

      I continue to gasp at Slashdot posts that sound so authoritative but yet are so wrong, and this is another one. Hubble's defective mirror was not replaced; it's right where it's always been. The initial fix for the defect was a device called COSTAR [hubblesite.org], which was put in an onboard instrument slot (with ease, since Hubble was designed to allow astronaut

  • by hcg50a (690062) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @10:25AM (#9939821) Journal
    O'Keefe is going to have to ask Congress for an extra $1.6B, which isn't budgeted. Isn't this about 5 times the amount a manned mission costs to do the same thing?

    Is it worth it?
    • It's not just the delivery side of the mission. NASA wants to fix/replace several components as well to extend the life of the HST. So that cost figure includes the development and construction of the components.

      It will be interesting to see who/what performs the mission. A friend at NASA Goddard says that the astronaut corps is lobbying hard to do the job.
    • A shuttle launch costs at least $500 million not including the enormous fixed costs of shuttle related centers and personnel. Add that to the risk of defying the Columbia investigation recommendations and the political reality of public support for the Hubble pork barrel and I'd say the figure sounds reasonable. Furthermore, the mission stands to give a big boost to robotics in general.

    • by niall2 (192734) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @11:16AM (#9940316) Homepage
      Each shuttle launch used to cost between 500 and 1000 million. This one would cost more as to satisfy the CAIB report a second shuttle and team would have to be on the pad, ready to go just in case there was a problem. They would have to train the second crew in rescue and have its support team prepped and ready to go. So really the cost of going to Hubble with a shuttle and with DEXTER is about the same in the end.

      The benefit of DEXTER is that it is out of the loop of the CIAB and the refit of the shuttles. As the shuttle refit is largely being done for IIS, it would probably take some priority over HST. Then you start bumping into the end of life for HST. If the batteries fail you cannot control the telescope and hence cannot dock with it. So really the slight extra cost is outweighed by the benefits.

      Now the question if can the robot really install the COS is a different question (the hardest part of the proposed mission). But thats what the next year of studies are about.
      • This one would cost more as to satisfy the CAIB report a second shuttle and team would have to be on the pad, ready to go just in case there was a problem. They would have to train the second crew in rescue and have its support team prepped and ready to go.

        NASA should just get a waiver from the CAIB requirements and go ahead and do the mission. Why a mission profile that's been successfully accomplished dozens of times is suddenly too risky even to consider is beyond me.

        Now the question if can the robot

        • Actually its the other way around. The batteries will be external (and live on the booster module that will be attached to the telescope for when it needs to be deorbited) and go in through a port that the shuttle used to power HST when its in the bay. The Gyros are going to be on WFC3, which is the on axis insturment...a simple pull it out and plug the new one in replacement. COS requires opening a side door, and astronauts have had problems closing these doors after they have warped in space due to the
          • The Gyros are going to be on WFC3, which is the on axis insturment...a simple pull it out and plug the new one in replacement.

            Okay, I hadn't heard about that approach before. However, I now recall hearing the proposal that the gyros would be incorporated into the booster module, which would also be a simple matter.

            COS requires opening a side door, and astronauts have had problems closing these doors after they have warped in space due to the extreem environment. As for the other parts of SM4, I don't k

        • Replacing the instruments is the easiest part of the mission, since it's just a matter of pulling out one refrigerator-sized box and replacing it with another one.

          You make it sound easy. It's not. The tolerances are very tight. Things tend to stick. There are hoses and wires everywhere, and that was before the NICMOS Cryocooler was literally wedged into some empty space in the aft shroud (I mention this since I work for the company that made the NICMOS Cryocooler). Having sat and watched the entirety

  • by Anonymous Coward
    If at some point NASA won't be willing to maintain the hubble anymore, how about transfering it to ESA? (petty nationalistic interests aside.)
    • If at some point NASA won't be willing to maintain the hubble anymore, how about transfering it to ESA? (petty nationalistic interests aside.)

      America has the capability, but not the will, to maintain Hubble. Maybe ESA or Russia or Japan might have the will, but nobody has the capability. AFAIK, only the Shuttle is capable of reaching, capturing and repairing Hubble. Just perhaps a Soyuz could get up there, but its ability to manoeuvre and dock would be very much in question.

  • Cool (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pHatidic (163975) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @10:27AM (#9939840)
    Dextre is a clever name for a two armed robot. In classical latin Dexter is the right hand and Sinister is the left hand. That is why we call people who have "two right hands" ambi-dexterous. I'm not going to make any jokes about left handed people being sinister in case they ended up with all the mod points today.
    • by revery (456516) <charles.cac2@net> on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @11:12AM (#9940275) Homepage
      We have the mod points everyday, Dexter...

      --

      You can't even do our secret handshake
    • Re:Cool (Score:2, Funny)

      by AndroidCat (229562)
      I'm not going to make any jokes about left handed people being sinister

      Yes, that would be rather gauche.

    • Actually... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Ribald (140704)
      I'm not going to make any jokes about left handed people being sinister in case they ended up with all the mod points today.

      Okay, it's been a few years since I was in Latin class, but...

      As I recall, the word 'sinister' picked up its present connotation for just this reason. Supposedly (according to my teacher, anyway), since lefties are a statistical minority (what is it--8% of the populace now?) the Romans believed that there was something wrong with anyone who was left-handed. This was attributed to
  • by Aerog (324274) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @10:27AM (#9939847) Homepage
    Okay, we've proven that we're good at building huge robotic arms. Canada == Huge arms in space. Now what about some legs, eh? Then, once we have the legs, if we put some funding into it we could put the two together and build some giant Canada-space-mechs. It's cool even without the "giant robot" factor.

    1. Build huge space-mechs
    2. ???
    3. Profit!

    It practically sells itself!
  • Why bother? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rabtech (223758) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @10:28AM (#9939851) Homepage
    Are we going to run back to mommy every time we stub our toes in space?

    Being on the frontier is dangerous; every single one of the astronauts knows this and signed up for it.

    If any of them don't want to fly Space Shuttle missions anymore, then don't make them. But I'm sure enough would volunteer for a manned Hubble repair mission that it wouldn't be a problem.

    Besides, we need to keep Hubble going; The Webb telescope is NOT a replacement for Hubble - it looks at different wavelengths; if we could ever get both of them operating at the same time they could be used in a complimentary fashion.
    • Re:Why bother? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Short Circuit (52384) *
      It's not just an issue of volunteer-fly-fix-land. Training for a mission takes a long time. What would you do if the astronaut expressed reservations once he'd already comitted to the mission?

      But that's not the primary issue, anyway. Astronauts sign up in the first place knowing it's a dangerous job.

      The people who can't stand it being dangerous is the general public, whom I would invite to study commercial and government naval travel from before we had convenient search-and-rescue tools like helicopter
    • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Timesprout (579035)
      Why not. I dont doubt astronauts would be prepared to fly the mission but why bother if a robot can do the job just as well. EVA's are a still a dangerous, clumsy undertaking, previous repair missions had all reported problems with the coldness affecting astronauts hands. OK a robot may not currently be as adaptable as an astronaut but when you are 160 miles up there is only so much you can do anyway should plan A fail. Robotic missions would be far cheaper and have a much faster turn around time.

      And w
      • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Saeger (456549)
        I dont doubt astronauts would be prepared to fly the mission but why bother if a robot can do the job just as well.

        Because some people still have romantic scifi notions of humans laboring in the new space frontier like heroic cowboys, when the reality is that increasing robotic/ai capability will be replacing many jobs [blogspot.com] starting with the most dangerous.

        Timmy: "Mommy, when I grow up I want to be a RoboNaut [nasa.gov]"
        Mom: "Ah... how cute - and your sister wants to be a 'My Little Pony' when she grows up."

        --

    • Re:Why bother? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lumpy (12016)
      But I'm sure enough would volunteer for a manned Hubble repair mission that it wouldn't be a problem.

      Except for NASA management, every single engineer on this planet would go up in the shuttle without question. I have a family at home and if the incompetent Management at NASA was replaced, I'd go without a second thought. The hardware is sound, yes mishaps happen, but's it's awfully safe if all the engineer's are listened to.

      both shuttle mishaps were preventable and lie on the hands of management igno
  • More info... (Score:5, Informative)

    by SeaDour (704727) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @10:28AM (#9939860) Homepage
    Here's a good link from the Canadian Space Agency's web site on Dextre (Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator): http://www.space.gc.ca/asc/eng/csa_sectors/human_p re/iss/mss_spdm.asp [space.gc.ca]
  • by allanc (25681) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @10:29AM (#9939873) Homepage
    Is the $1.6B cost of this in US or CA funds? 'Cause I got about $1.6B Canadian back in change from my Value Meal yesterday...

    --AC
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Mod -1: Chose to insult a country other than America.
    • What does it matter, at the rate your US dollar is falling it will be known as the American paso in only a few years.
  • ISS Telescope (Score:3, Insightful)

    by grunt107 (739510) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @10:34AM (#9939920)
    Too bad all the competing projects do not work together. If the Hubble telescope was 'designed' for docking, it could have been pulled to the ISS and attached.
    Since the seemingly forgotten ISS needs inhabitant refreshes every so often, the cost for upkeep of both could be lessened - parts could be sent w/the new batch and damaged parts returned w/old.
    • Re:ISS Telescope (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      > If the Hubble telescope was 'designed' for docking, it
      > could have been pulled to the ISS and attached. Since the
      > seemingly forgotten ISS needs inhabitant refreshes every so
      > often, the cost for upkeep of both could be lessened -
      > parts could be sent w/the new batch and damaged parts
      > returned w/old.

      An excellent plan, sir, with two minor drawbacks[/kryten]:

      "pulling" the Hubble to the ISS would take a larger rocket than launched it originally - they are in significantly different
    • And how long do you think it would take before HST's mirror was rendered useless by condensation from the "atmosphere" of rocket propellant, CO2, and human piss surrounding the ISS? I'd give it about 25 minutes.
    • Umm no it couldn't. The Hubble telescope is in a completely different orbit. I believe it's orbit, in addition to being on a completely different declination, is much higher. IIS is too low and at too weird an orbit to really be useful in the way you suggest.
  • MD Robotics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NeoCode (207863) <unnamedplayer@roge r s . com> on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @10:43AM (#9939995)
    MD Robotics [mdrobotics.ca] has played a vital role in NASA space programs. It's the same company that has built the CanadaArm and CanadaArm2 and is now providing with Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator [mdrobotics.ca] for HST.

    I am very proud to see Canada (and MD Robotics, since it has a development lab in my hometown) play a vital role in ISS (with CanadaArm and CA2) and now the HST.
  • by Froze (398171) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @11:00AM (#9940146) Homepage
    Does it seem like NASA made the most publically sucsessful project into a false sacrificial lamb in order that they might both increase their budget by special appropriation and appear to be managing their budget by cutting costs on supposedly outdated hardware.

    It seems that their gambit is paying off. The public (ok, a bunch of geeks) wailed loud enough that congress is willing to consider special funding.
  • by Microlith (54737) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @11:13AM (#9940287)
    HOSERS HOBBLE HUBBLE!

    Would be an appropriate headline for the newspapers, I think :)
  • Maybe they should... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by farzadb82 (735100) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @11:29AM (#9940445)
    Put one of these on each of the remaining space shuttles so taht they can perform tile observation/repair, etc. when necessary without risking any lives.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I for one welcome our new Canadian overlords. And as a Canadian, I will be happy to round up americans to work in our subterranean robotic mines!
  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @11:46AM (#9940596) Homepage
    Here's more info from the manufacturer. [mdrobotics.ca] This isn't a free-flying robot. It's an end effector for the Canada Arm on the Shuttle. So it still takes a shuttle flight. Probably still takes astronaut EVAs, too.

    Like the arm, it's a teleoperator, controlled by somebody with joysticks.

    Given how much a shuttle flight costs, it would probably be cheaper to just run off another copy of the Hubble and launch that.

    • According to this:
      http://science.howstuffworks.com/hubble2.ht m
      The HST cost $2.2B US to build. I'm guessing it might be cheaper to replace the thing after the original is serviced 3 times, but how will you know that it will need three servicings?
  • Well, if the HST is wobbling, those Canucks will just give it some beer, and that'll make it more stable, eh?

    DISCLAIMER [required for the humor-impaired under the Americans with Disabilities Act] -- This is not intended to be offensive to Canadians.
  • by red floyd (220712) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @12:11PM (#9940859)

    Dextre has a sibling robot named Dee-Dee, which is always messing up his work.
  • by Sloppy (14984) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @12:13PM (#9940878) Homepage Journal
    This robot (and a foreign outsourced one that that!) threatens to take jobs away from American workers!

    Those of you who defend technology and globalism, I hope you can look an unemployed American astronaut in the eye while you explain your position. And be sure to explain who is going to put food on his family.

  • Well gee. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Burgundy Advocate (313960) on Wednesday August 11, 2004 @12:30PM (#9941032) Homepage
    That's only one tenth of the total NASA yearly budget. Definitely worthwhile so we can have pretty pictures for the few years between the Hubble and the James Webb.

    This should be interesting... let's see how this one is spun. First it was BUSH HATES SCIENCE! I'm guessing we'll be back to BUSH IS PROPPING UP HIS CORPORATE CRONIES WITH CONTRACTS this time. Or do I hear a conspiracy theory dealing with how this was all a underhanded ploy to get more funding than originally provisioned?

    Honestly, I'm probably not creative enough to come up with a high-quality spin. *sigh*

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