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Upgraded Hubble To Be 90 Times As Powerful 194

Posted by kdawson
from the new-glasses-and-oh-here's-your-binoculars dept.
The feed brings us a New Scientist review of the repairs and new instruments that astronauts will bring to the Hubble Space Telescope next August (unless the launch is delayed). The resulting instrument will be 90 times as powerful as Hubble was designed to be when launched, and 60% more capable than it was after its flawed optics were repaired in 1993. If the astronauts pull it off — and the mission is no slam-dunk — the space telescope should be able to image galaxies back to 400 million years after the Big Bang.
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Upgraded Hubble To Be 90 Times As Powerful

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  • by Hellad (691810) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:22AM (#21965294)
    Last I heard, it was being dumped. Anyone want to give some info on when they changed their mind re. the hubble's fate?
    • by afidel (530433) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:41AM (#21965400)
      When the new director took over one of his first acts was to reinstate the Hubble upgrade. Really it's one of the most cost effective missions that NASA can do from a science per dollar perspective and one of the few ones that needs the shuttle before it's decommissioned.
      • by Strider- (39683) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @02:36AM (#21965654)
        Just prior to the "Return To Flight" mission after the Columbia mission, I had the opportunity to talk to two retired shuttle astronauts, one of whom had been involved in the first Hubble servicing mission. I asked them whether given the opportunity, they'd be willing to fly another mission to the Hubble even without the post-Columbia modifications. To a man, they both said "Absolutely, In a heartbeat." In their eyes, the Hubble was one of the few truly useful missions performed by the space shuttle.
        • Their answer may not have anything to do with Hubble.

          I am quite certain that former astronauts (and prospective ones) when asked if they would do a garbage cleanup mission in orbit would say "Absolutely, In a heartbeat."

          I would, wouldn't you?

          (thats not to say hubble isn't worthy at all, it has produced some of the greatest images of space seen so far)
        • by houghi (78078)
          When asked if they would be willing to fly another mission just for fun. To a man, they both said "Absolutely, In a heartbeat."
        • Just prior to the "Return To Flight" mission after the Columbia mission, I had the opportunity to talk to two retired shuttle astronauts, one of whom had been involved in the first Hubble servicing mission. I asked them whether given the opportunity, they'd be willing to fly another mission to the Hubble even without the post-Columbia modifications. To a man, they both said "Absolutely, In a heartbeat." In their eyes, the Hubble was one of the few truly useful missions performed by the space shuttle.

          I love space science and I love manned spaceflight, I geek out over this like you wouldn't believe. But with all these cost overruns and the shuttle being so frickin' expensive, the whole idea of servicing a device in space as being "cost effective" is laughable. The cost of launching is so high, it would be cheaper just to treat things like the Hubble as disposable and just send up a brand new satellite with the upgrades in place rather than trying to retrofit them on hardware in space.

      • by pnewhook (788591)

        When the new director took over one of his first acts was to reinstate the Hubble upgrade.

        Actually no. The first thing he did was to cancel the planned unmanned robotic upgrade that was approved by the previous director. That system was almost completed. If that was allowed to go ahead the Hubble would have been repaired by now.

        Griffin only reinstated the shuttle rescue plan after a lot of opposition from the scientific community.

    • by davidsyes (765062)
      So, the Humble Hubble is about to be universally unhobbled?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    and 60% more capable than it was after its flawed optics were repaired in 1993.
    Article says compared to the ACS of the *third* servicing mission, which if you know your stuff, was in March 2002.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:38AM (#21965378)
    >> 400 million years after the Big Bang

    That's about how long it feels like it's been since my last big bang.
  • Was Hubble worth it? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bogaboga (793279)
    I am having doubts as to whether Hubble was worth it. My gut feeling tells me that the monies used in the entire Hubble project would have changed lots of American lives in a big positive way. What have we got out of it that is worth all those billions spent so far? Can somebody convince me?
    • by anthonys_junk (1110393) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <knujsynohtna>> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:48AM (#21965432)

      The fundamental problem with your statement is that you assume that the $$$ would otherwise have been used to change lives in a big positive way.

      Put very simply, through science, we gain an understanding of the world, and universe around us, how it operates and how we can interact more effectively with it.

    • by Karthikkito (970850) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:59AM (#21965490)
      You've been modded flamebait by someone, but it's a legitimate question that many people have when looking at instruments designed for pure science and discovery. There are quite a few really good arguments about why the Hubble should be around which are based on the science mission, but I'll give you an example of positive spinoffs that affect our daily lives. Google will give you many more.

      -----
      "NASA's TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER PROGRAM FOR TEE EARLY DETECTION OF BREAST CANCER", available at ieeexplore.ieee.org/iel4/5216/14105/00646457.pdf?tp=&isnumber=&arnumber=646457

      One NASA-driven development has already found its way into clinical use as part of the LORAD; stereotactic needle
      biopsy system. The charge-coupled device (CCD) camera used in this system was originally designed and built for use
      in the Hubble Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, and provides a high-resolution, high-contrast image in real time
      to guide a physician in the accurate collection of a biopsy sample from suspicious imaged breast lesions. The Hubble
      CCD, coupled with a high-speed phosphor screen, gives greatly increased sensitivity, contrast and resolution over
      previous methods, The result is a less traumatic, lower cost ($800 vs. $2,500 typically for surgical biopsy), non-surgical biopsy procedure for the more than 500,000 American women who undergo breast biopsies each year.
      -------

      Here, Hubble directly increased the ability for us to find cancers. When you look at a dollar amount, (2500-800)*500000 gives us $0.85 billion per year. Note that this article was published in 1996; today, mammograms and biopsies are much more common. To keep things simple, if we assume a constant number of patients, the Hubble CCD alone has directly resulted in cost savings of $9.35 billion (let alone lives saved). Also note that the cost of scalpel biopsies is mostly based on labor, and so would not have dropped much beyond the $2500 level; CCD's have become very inexpensive (relative to costs in 1996) and so the savings would actually be significantly larger than calculated here.

      Anyone know the true cost of a non-surgical biopsy today?
      • The Hubble no more gave us CCD's than the Apollo program gave us Tang...

        There was a definite need for CCD imaging whether or not the Hobbled was built. If there was a $9.35 billion value for live imaging of breast tumors then it would have been researched and developed regardless, and more efficiently than by putting up a huge mirror into space. It's not like no one thought of the technology besides space telescope supporters

        Mind you, I'm not necessarily knocking the Rubble telescope - that I leave for
    • by jdigriz (676802) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @02:15AM (#21965556)
      Wikipedia says the cumulative cost of the Hubble program has been 6.5 billion dollars. The population of the United States is approximately 300 million people. That means that the Hubble over its entire lifespan cost every man, woman and child in the United States $21.67 each. So no, all the monies spent on it would not have changed lots of American lives in a big positive way. Considering that all that money was paid over the course of the last 18 years, that means each person paid the equivalent of a little over a dollar per year for the wonderful pictures and discoveries it made. So, are the secrets of the universe, or even just pretty pictures worth a third of a cent per day? I think so. 6.5 billion dollars in the hands of one person is a lot of money. 6.5 billion dollars spread across 300 million people over 20 years is practically nothing. If you want to consider real money, consider the > 450 billion dollars spent over the last 5 years on the Iraq war, or the 450 Billion dollar Defense budget spent every year which doesn't even include war operations.
      • I came in here to say almost exactly what the parent post said - If you had taken all the Hubble money and rather spent it on some social program it would come down to basically $1 per US citizen per year over the last 20 years.

        Money spent on pure science is usually a good investment because the returns are cumulative. The new knowledge that we gain can potentially benefit the human race in all perpetuity.

        E.g. Of the immense amount of technology that gives you the ability to post here in Slashdot large port
        • That much money could have funded a lot of basic research and training in labs throughout the US had it been given to NIH or NSF which seems to me a better way to spend the money.

          But, if as is probably the case, that the money was only available to science in the form of the Hubble due to defense tie-ins, NASA PR, or some other political factors, then I agree that the money was better spent than being sunk into corporate welfare programs...
      • You even have to subtract about 500 million dollars from the 6,5 billion, as that is the contribution of the ESA to the mission. (See FAQ item 10 [spacetelescope.org] (that page also must have been made in space, because who on Earth would sort a FAQ in reverse order and not even put anchors to the items on it)). So about $20 for each in the US and below $1 for us Europeans, not that it makes a difference and I fully agree with you.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by ragefan (267937)

        If you want to consider real money, consider the > 450 billion dollars spent over the last 5 years on the Iraq war, or the 450 Billion dollar Defense budget spent every year which doesn't even include war operations.

        According to this page [nationalpriorities.org], we have spend closer to $485 billion so far and the works out to about $275 million per day or $0.92 per day for every man, woman and child in America, versus only $0.003 per day over the life of Hubble.

    • by wwwillem (253720)
      I am having doubts as to whether Hubble was worth it

      I still could agree with that. But I don't thing you should compare it with what that money could have done "on earth", but how it compares to other space projects. And then I personally think that the Hubble project as a whole was much more useful than let's say a shuttle bringing some fresh food to the space station and getting its garbage back.

      Or a bit stronger, what was a better space program, the Hubble telescope or putting a couple of guys on the moo
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rucs_hack (784150)
      I think you'll find that NASA, and all its associated costs, (aside from the flying turkey that is the ISS), take up less than 0.02% of the total US budget. It might be smaller than that, this is from memory, I can't re-find the source, which was a newspaper.

      Its a tiny, tiny amount though. The problem is that the space program has always been blown by the political winds. People remember that once, long ago, it did indeed consume vast amounts of cash, and they assume this continues today. NASA then and NASA
    • Whatever trivial little social goods you might be able to do with the 6.5 billion that hubble has cost over its lifetime are far outweighed by the increase in our understanding of the universe we live in that hubble has brought about.

      Just think if we took all the money being spent on science around the world and spent it on food instead. We could fix world hunger! Thats what I call a long term solution. /sarcasm
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sqldr (838964)
      The telescope DID improve American and non-American lives in a big positive way by getting us closer to understanding the universe we live in - something that most people would like to understand.

      "big positive way" doesn't necessarily equate to giving people handouts or curing diabetes. If all we ever spent our money on was egalitarianism, our lives would be so boring we wouldn't see the point. I'm very happy that money has been spent on hubble, and its findings never cease to excite me.
    • governments subsidies of anything else, and on a personal level for second computers, second cars, Nikes and game consoles. Science and technology give you otherwise uncharted options. To paraphrase Lewis Black, we can now put a closet full of CDs on an iPod, we should ALSO be able to figure out how to get the sunlight that cooks our rooftops to cook our meals.
    • by trongey (21550)

      ... My gut feeling tells me ... Can somebody convince me?

      Maybe, since your gut is pretty much a stimulus/response organ with no real capability for thought. The fact that you're taking socio-economic theories from it suggests that you might be easily swayed.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Can it or can it not fry people like ants under a magnifying glass.

    That's what we want to know.
  • by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:50AM (#21965446) Homepage
    Most people think the magnification of a telescope is the most important number, whereas astronomers are typically more interested in the light-gathering power, as measured by the aperture. What's really being increased by a factor of 90 is neither the magnification nor the sensitivity, it's apparently the product of the sensitivity and the area of the field of view. The argument seems to be that this is an important figure of merit if you're doing a survey of faint objects, such as very distant galaxies.
    • by rhizome (115711)
      astronomers are typically more interested in the light-gathering power

      Isn't this just a fancy way of saying they're interested in capturing fainter objects?
      • by arodland (127775)
        Well... vaguely, yes. If you get more light in the front end and you keep everything else the same then you can look at dimmer objects. Or you can capture an image in a shorter period of time. Or you can boost SNR to produce less-noisy images. Or, equipment permitting, you can produce higher-resolution images. Or some combination of the above so long as the numbers all add up.
    • by chebucto (992517)
      So they're increasing the field of view: that's equivalent to installing a new eyepiece in a amateur telescope, correct?

      Anyway, if the HST is going to be 90% more powerful and 60% more capable, by my calculation that means it'll be 304% more awesome. Three w00ts for NASA!
    • Maybe it's just a hard drive upgrade, and "90 times" is all NASA marketing-speak.
    • It's a "Gee-Whiz" statistic meant to get the public excited. I don't think it's really meaningful in any formal sense. (Certainly not as-written: "90 times more powerful".) This particular improvement is aimed at one area of research, I don't think it generally helps others (at least not as much). To really be "90 times more powerful" as a generic statement, I think you need to make an improvement in the light-gathering power/quantum efficiency of the chip/resolution, something that affects nearly every
  • by CraigParticle (523952) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @02:20AM (#21965586) Homepage
    The summary is a bit misleading about the 60%.

    FTA: "HST will be about 60% more powerful than it was right after the third servicing mission, before ACS and STIS failed."

    The 1993 servicing mission generally restored the designed capabilities of the Hubble, the so-called "factor of 90" that the article mentions. Major new improvements and capabilities came with each servicing mission, culminating in the March 2002 servicing mission that installed the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).

    The upcoming installation of the new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) will improve the combined sensitivity and field of view by 60% over the Hubble as it was after March 2002 (and before ACS died).

    To be fair... by the same metric, modern ground-based telescopes with large format CCD and infrared arrays are on the order of 100 times more powerful than they were in 1990 as well. In the near infrared, the gains are closer to a factor of 1000!

  • by Swampash (1131503) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @02:37AM (#21965666)
    The Earth is only 6,000 years old. Mike Huckabee wouldn't lie to me.
  • 1.6 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tsa (15680) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @03:34AM (#21965880) Homepage
    So actually it's going to be only 1.6 times better than before, because before the first big repair to improve the optics the thing was mostly unusable. Am I right?
  • by Urkki (668283) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @03:51AM (#21965952)

    The resulting instrument will be 90 times as powerful as Hubble was designed to be when launched, and 60% more capable than it was after its flawed optics were repaired in 1993.
    Is it just my reading comprehension, or does above text actually claim, that Hubble was designed to be launched with a faulty optics, that optics repair then improved it some 30 times, and now the new upgrades will improve it 3 times more...?

    Or, to put it the other way, is this improvement actually 60% (still a lot!) over current situation, and the "90 times as powerful" is basically just bullshit hype?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sockatume (732728)
      It wasn't designed to have bad optics. The big-name private contractor who built the mirror screwed up because they misassembled one of the instruments used in manufacturing it. This sort of thing happens all the time of course - recall that the Genesis capsule cratered in the desert because Lockheed-Martin installed an accelerometer backwards and skipped the test which would've spotted the mistake.
    • by emurphy42 (631808)
      TFS is wrong. From TFA, it'll be 90 times as powerful as it was right after the first service mission [wikipedia.org] (which fixed it to work as originally designed), and 60% more powerful than it was right after the most recent service mission. [wikipedia.org]
  • Will the Hubble Space Telescope once again become the most important scientific tool for space exploration? Why yes, but, the real question is... will it blend?
  • So can we now point it to the moon and take pictures of the Apollo mission artifacts (supposedly) left on its surface?
    • by s_p_oneil (795792)
      It sounds like it. I've read that the moon rover left there is a bit smaller than 1 pixel in size the at Hubble's current resolution. With 90x more power, it should cover enough pixels to be recognizable.
  • The feed brings us a New Scientist review of the repairs and new instruments that astronauts will bring to the Hubble Space Telescope next August (unless the launch is delayed).

    Should read:

    The feed brings us a New Scientist review of the repairs and new instruments that astronauts will take to the Hubble Space Telescope next August (unless the launch is delayed).

    How can they bring it if they're not there yet?
  • If NASA holds firm to ending the shuttle era and space station construction by 2010, there is no way in hell NASA can do 13 more missions by 2010. I hope the next president in her wisdom will grant NASA the leeway to finish its shuttle tasks. Got to decide soon, because shuttle refurbishing orders take up to two years to fullfill.
  • All of this looking into deep space and distant past is fine and all but I am much more interested in looking at stars here in the Milky Way to find out more about their planets. The reasons for this are that we will colonize space, and we need to figure out which star systems are worth sending probes to in search of terraformable planets. It will take a very long time for these probes to arrive, and almost as long for a colonization ship to arrive and start the terraformation. We need to launch these probe

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