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Space NASA Science

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 @12:22AM (#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?
  • Awesome! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by AndGodSed (968378) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:26AM (#21965326) Homepage Journal
    I downloaded some pic's from the Hubble/Nasa sights the other day and I can't wait to see what this updated baby can pull off...

    Puuurdyyy
  • Was Hubble worth it? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bogaboga (793279) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:42AM (#21965402)
    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?
  • Re:Awesome! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KillerCow (213458) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:48AM (#21965436)
    You know, almost all of those astronomical images are artificially colored and enhanced to maximize their ascetic appeal. Have a look at some of the various images of the cat's eye nebula to see. A quick Google turns up 5 different colorings:

    http://www.daviddarling.info/images/Cats_Eye_Nebula.jpg [daviddarling.info]
    http://www.uni-sw.gwdg.de/~panders/Images/AstroImages/03_CatEyeNebula.jpg [uni-sw.gwdg.de]
    http://www.spacetoday.org/images/Hubble/HubbleBeauty/CatsEyeNebulaNASA.jpg [spacetoday.org]
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5a/NGC6543.jpg [wikimedia.org]
    http://www.daviddarling.info/images/Cats_Eye_Nebula_2.jpg [daviddarling.info]

    The interpretation of the horsehead nebula is at least consistent (most of the time), but there is still plenty of artistic license being taken.

    http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/52238main_MM_image_feature_89_jw4.jpg [nasa.gov]
    http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/45506main_MM_Image_Feature_73_rs4.jpg [nasa.gov]
    http://www.geocities.com/scott_metz/alternity/graphics/horsehead_nebula.jpg [geocities.com]
    http://www.sidewalk-astronomy-club.com/img/horsehead-nebula.jpg [sidewalk-a...y-club.com]
    http://www.fourthdimensionastroimaging.com/sitebuilder/images/horsehead-712x571.jpg [fourthdime...maging.com]

    I was sort of disappointed when I found that out...
  • by jdigriz (676802) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:15AM (#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.
  • by patio11 (857072) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:33AM (#21965638)
    >>
    Really it's one of the most cost effective missions that NASA can do from a science per dollar perspective
    >>

    The relevent question, though, is whether its one of the most cost effective things *we* can do from a science-per-dollar perspective. And it's not. $1.5 billion to launch. $350 million a year to keep operational. And for what? Pretty pictures of far away balls of gas and, maybe, if we're lucky, a hint of a large rock orbiting the balls of gas.

    Let's bust out the government's $135 billion yearly R&D budget. What could we do with an extra $350 million? Well, let me present you with a variety of options. We could double our R&D spending on malaria and TB, working to save several hundred thousand children a year who die from one of the two. Maybe they're not as photogenic as stars many light years away, though. OK, forget the kids.

    We could spend the $350 million paying for open source software to be developed. That would pay for, conservatively, hundreds of projects, or a few flagships with the impact of Apache or Firefox. One of them could even develop stunning vistas from distant galaxies, since apparently people think that is an important use of the taxpayer's dollars.

    I'm personally skeptical about solar power but, hey, for $350 million you could fund about a dozen projects a year looking into both radical new materials to use and iterations on the existing stuff, trying to make it cost-competitive with cheap coal.

    If exploring new frontiers makes you misty, you could just about double our oceanographic research budget with a cool $350 million. We've pissed away billions trying to get a closer look at a dead environment which is terribly hostile to human life and which might include a few drops of water here and there. Instead, for a few million we could do in-depth study of unique organisms who robust, exciting environment and which most certainly includes water. And if you're the "well we've got to find a way off this rock!" Slashdot contingent who has read one too many sci-fi novels, your $350 billion would also count against improving our ability to survive in hostile environments.

    Speaking of ecosystems, want to see if an off-world colony is EVER going to be viable? For $350 million you could restart the BioDome project. If you can solve that issue here, you can always worry about launch vehicles later, but if you can't, then all space research in the world won't get you what you want.

    Yeah yeah, I know, I know -- "Space isn't the biggest waste of money in the budget!" I'm sure it isn't, but being less-than-maximally-wasteful is not a ringing endorsement of your favorite program.
  • by AaronLawrence (600990) * on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @02:18AM (#21965810)
    The problem is that for the cost of a single shuttle maintenance mission to Hubble you could build and launch a new telescope.
  • by Siener (139990) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @02:54AM (#21965960) Homepage
    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 portions was funded by public money. Yes, you could rather have used that money to feed a few hungry people, but I would argue that the human race as a whole would be worse off for it.
  • by Sockatume (732728) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:14AM (#21966472)
    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 blahplusplus (757119) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @06:38AM (#21966752)
    "The problem is that for the cost of a single shuttle maintenance mission to Hubble you could build and launch a new telescope."

    That may be true but there also may be benefits in learning to repair what we have, that go beyond merely the "launch and trash" philosophy, i.e. when resources are limited. What kinds of new technologies will be spawned to learn how to repair existing stuff in space and what will be learned I think is just as valuable since sooner or later we will have to learn whether others want it or not.
  • by Aardpig (622459) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @09:14AM (#21967820)
    None whatsoever. It's going to be at the L1 Lagrange point; this means that repair missions are not really possible. This was an easy way for NASA administrators to avoid the long-term budgetary overhead incurred by upkeep. (That said, there's also a good science justification for putting the telescope at L1).

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