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NASA Space

Atlantis Links Up To Hubble For Repairs 132

Posted by timothy
from the hey-baby-I-see-the-stars-in-your-eyes dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Space Shuttle Atlantis has finally caught up with the Hubble Space Telescope after following it for several hours. The 'link up' between the Space Shuttle and Hubble was a very delicate one as the two were flying through space at 17,200 MPH, 300 miles above the Earth's surface. The robotic arm of the shuttle grappled the telescope at 1:14 PM EDT today. The telescope will be latched to a high-tech Lazy Susan device known as the Flight Support System for the duration of the servicing work."
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Atlantis Links Up To Hubble For Repairs

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  • What about the supplies?
  • ILzy Susan? (Score:5, Funny)

    by eln (21727) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:01PM (#27943847) Homepage

    Is that like an epileptic version of a lazy susan? I don't even know how you make a typo like that without having some sort of seizure.

  • by smallshot (1202439) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:05PM (#27943907)

    Why do these articles always tell us how difficult it was to do something in space because they are going so ridiculously fast? When taken relatively, they were practically sitting still while docking.

    I know there are all kinds of other factors and I know it takes a lot of math to even get to the right orbit at the right time and speed to even see the Hubble, but after that, it ought to be relatively simple considering the lack of any unwanted or unexpected force on the crafts. I'm pretty sure it's much more difficult to land a jet on an air craft carrier, but I wouldn't know for sure.

    • I know there are all kinds of other factors and I know it takes a lot of math to even get to the right orbit at the right time and speed to even see the Hubble, but after that, it ought to be relatively simple considering the lack of any unwanted or unexpected force on the crafts. I'm pretty sure it's much more difficult to land a jet on an air craft carrier, but I wouldn't know for sure.

      Exactly right, we've been doing it for overy forty years -

      Apollo 13 CSM Seperation (sic) and Docking:

      http://www. [youtube.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ITJC68 (1370229)
      It would have been more challenging if they were going in separate directions and tried to link up. That would have been worth seeing.
    • by confused one (671304) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:54PM (#27944641)
      I can't understand it either, as I sit here, very carefully typing, going 17,880 MPH around the Sun.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by butalearner (1235200)

        I can't understand it either, as I sit here, very carefully typing, going 17,880 MPH around the Sun.

        I find it very amusing that such an orbital speed would put you somewhere in the neighborhood of Uranus.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by BrokenHalo (565198)
          I find it very amusing that such an orbital speed would put you somewhere in the neighborhood of Uranus.

          Just so long as he's not in the neighbourhood of mine.
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        That's nothing. You should see how fast I'm orbiting the galactic center. While I type this.

    • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdot@wSLACKWAREorf.net minus distro> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @06:07PM (#27944827)

      I know there are all kinds of other factors and I know it takes a lot of math to even get to the right orbit at the right time and speed to even see the Hubble, but after that, it ought to be relatively simple considering the lack of any unwanted or unexpected force on the crafts. I'm pretty sure it's much more difficult to land a jet on an air craft carrier, but I wouldn't know for sure.

      If I remember my orbital mechanics, it's actually quite tricky. First, let's eliminate the orbital plane, and assume we're just orbiting in the same plane as some other object flying around.

      Firstly, the only way to match altitudes is with speeds - the faster you go, the higher up you go. Ah, but then you must make your speed adjustment at the right time - if you don't meet up at altitude, you and the object will be orbiting at the same speed and will never catch each other. You could speed up some, but then you'll go into a higher orbit, or slow down some and go into a lower orbit. Thrusters help for minor speed and altitude/attitude corrections.

      Secondly, you must do this within a resource budget - gas (for thrusters), oxygen (for crew), power, which means you must do it within a few orbits. You can't endlessly orbit.

      Now remove the planar restriction...

      • Try it yourself (Score:5, Informative)

        by mmontour (2208) <mail@mmontour.net> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @06:35PM (#27945115)

        There's a free (beer) spaceflight simulator available at http://orbit.medphys.ucl.ac.uk/orbit.html [ucl.ac.uk] that lets you try these sorts of approaches.

      • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @06:56PM (#27945323) Journal

        "Firstly, the only way to match altitudes is with speeds - the faster you go, the higher up you go. ..."

        That's only an issue if your drift time between velocity adjustments is an appreciable fraction of a quarter-orbit. For significantly shorter times the orbital mechanics of the goofy accelerated reference frame is no big deal.

        This was delicate because the instrument they're linking up with is massive and fragile. No hard bumps during grabbing or thruster exhaust spraying the device is acceptable.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ColaMan (37550)

          This was delicate because the instrument they're linking up with is massive and fragile. No hard bumps during grabbing or thruster exhaust spraying the device is acceptable.

          Exactly.

          Here's a simple question for those who say this is easy to work out:

          You have an orbiter with a mass of 80,000kg drifting towards a telescope with a mass of 11,000kg in an essentially frictionless environment, just like your physics teachers used to say and love. They are directly approaching each other at 10 millimeters per secon

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Trevorm7 (1082535)

      I'm pretty sure it's much more difficult to land a jet on an air craft carrier, but I wouldn't know for sure.

      I would! TOP GUN - by the Angry Nintendo Nerd [youtube.com] Start at 2:10

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Because it makes it all sound so exciting. Really that is the answer. That and most people in the Press and for that matter politics tend to have a terrible grasp of science.
      You are correct that it is probably much harder to land on an Aircraft carrier than perform a docking. Now the actual space walk can be another matter. Those can be a very stressful and exhausting operation.

  • Lulzy Susan? (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by Nimey (114278)

    This calls for trolling.

  • 17,000 mph (Score:3, Insightful)

    by line-bundle (235965) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:06PM (#27943943) Homepage Journal

    Do people just look for big numbers to sound impressive??

    The important number is the relative speed between Hubble and the shuttle. From my very precise calculation it was zero.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Your precise calculation is off. If they moved at 0mph the linkup would occur, oh i'd say, never.

      *queue smartass replies with inches per hour in scientific notation*

      • *queue smartass replies with inches per hour in scientific notation*

        I wouldn't. I think they work in cubits there. Or is it fathoms?
      • *queue smartass replies with inches per hour in scientific notation*

        queue [reference.com] != cue [reference.com]

    • Re:17,000 mph (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:28PM (#27944281)
      Ah, no, the Shuttle actually did have to accelerate to 17000 mph from when it took off until it docked, with precise positioning. It's by no means easy, only a few nations are capable of it. I thought the X-Prize was pretty cool, but for that matter, they never even reach orbit.
      • I agree, it is actually impressive.

        I find 17,200mph (27,680km/h) rather difficult to imagine though (I'm not disputing the figure, I just can't imagine how fast that is). So I converted it to every-day units I can think in (metres per second). This figure I can sort-of imagine: 17,200 miles per hour = about 7,739m/s (or about 4 3/4 miles per second for Americans), relative to the launch pad.

        Yes, relative speed between Hubble and Atlantis during grappling was probably under one metre/sec. But it was sti

        • Re:17,000 mph (Score:5, Interesting)

          by whyde (123448) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @09:36PM (#27946603)

          I've told this story before on slashdot, but once--about 10 years ago--the shuttle flew over Austin, TX on descent to land in FL not long after sunset. We went outside to see the boiling plasma trail it left in the atmosphere, then went back inside to see it touch down 9 MINUTES LATER.

          Fast, indeed.

    • What impresses me is the connection of a sunken city lost in the ages to a modern telescope.

  • by ergo98 (9391) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:06PM (#27943949) Homepage Journal

    So they're going 17,200mph relative to the surface of the Earth? How fast are they going relative to some arbitrarily fixed point in the universe? Relative to another galaxy, we're hurtling towards it at some million mph, so maybe count that in as well.

    I am reaching for my pop can while we travel at over 1 million miles per hour. SUCCESS! POP CAN LINKUP COMPLETE!

    • Re:Relative speeds (Score:4, Informative)

      by mea37 (1201159) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:09PM (#27943995)

      "relative to some arbitrarily fixed point in the universe"

      I think you just made Einstein cry.

      And in a post about the importance of relative measurements, no less.

      There is no such thing as a "fixed point in the universe".

      • Re:Relative speeds (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Luyseyal (3154) <swaters@nOSpAM.luy.info> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:17PM (#27944121) Homepage

        I think you have it backwards. He understood that there is no actual fixed reference. He just meant that choosing the earth as a reference point didn't help one determine whether the linkage was difficult or not. Short answer: cut him some slack.

        Delta-V, FTW!
        -l

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I think you have it backwards. He understood that there is no actual fixed reference. He just meant that choosing the earth as a reference point didn't help one determine whether the linkage was difficult or not. Short answer: cut him some slack.

          Delta-V, FTW!
          -l

          No slack today, sorry.

          It DOES matter. The relative velocity is very important until you leave the Earth's gravity well.

          Relative velocity to the center point is important if the distance to the center of the orbit is small (on a relative scale of course). For example, if they were attempting to synch up while in orbit around the Sun (but not in the Earth's field) then the velocity relative to the Sun would be rather unimportant, since both objects can adjust speed to match without much worry about falling in

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by berj (754323)

        No.. but one can "arbitrarily" select a fixed point as a reference.. as the parent poster stated.

        "I arbitrarily choose the earth as the fixed point in the universe for all my velocity calculations."

        See?

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by mea37 (1201159)

          No, your arbitrary choice does not make the point "fixed", even within the context of your calculation. It merely makes it a reference.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by camperdave (969942)
            It doesn't move relative to itself, therefore it is fixed.
            • by mea37 (1201159)

              Fixed in your frame of reference. Not fixed in the Universe.

              • Fixed in your frame of reference. Not fixed in the Universe.

                Of course it is fixed in the universe. Your frame of reference *IS* the universe, or at least how you measure it. For most of my day to day living, I choose the Earth as a fixed reference point. I travel so many blocks to work, and so many blocks back home. I see the sun rise and set. (Well, I don't actually see the sun rise. That's far to early in the day :-) For my purposes, the Earth is fixed and the Sun moves. It makes all my calculati
                • by mea37 (1201159)

                  "Your frame of reference *IS* the universe"

                  No, it isn't.

                  "or at least how you measure it"

                  Correct. A ruler is how I measure a piece of wood, but the ruler is not the piece of wood.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by PitaBred (632671)
        That's why reading the context is important. That little word "arbitrarily" before "fixed point" means that you just chose something to USE as a fixed point. Which is PRECISELY what relativity is.
    • So they're going 17,200mph relative to the surface of the Earth? How fast are they going relative to some arbitrarily fixed point in the universe? Relative to another galaxy, we're hurtling towards it at some million mph, so maybe count that in as well.

      So why don't you go up there and show 'em how it's done?

      • by ergo98 (9391)

        So why don't you go up there and show 'em how it's done?

        I'm too busy perfecting my pop can linkup technology. ONCE AGAIN A PERFECT LINKUP!

        And no, my post in no way diminished or under-estimated the technical accomplishments of that group. It was a comment on the highlighting of the speed thing, as if the shuttle sat there with a catcher's mitt and snared the hubble flying by at 17,200mph.

        And anyways, relative speeds really are a mind blowing thing. The idea that we all are sitting on a spacecraft hurtling a

    • Occasionally we have a malfunction [inboxity.com] at that speed. Whoa! Slow down there, cowboy!

    • by TopSpin (753) * on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:36PM (#27944431) Journal

      How fast are they going relative to some arbitrarily fixed point in the universe?

      I am also manipulating a soda container at 552 km/s (1.23M mph), relative to the CMB rest frame [astro.ubc.ca]. Most highly trained soda operators are capable of this.

    • by syousef (465911)

      I am reaching for my pop can while we travel at over 1 million miles per hour. SUCCESS! POP CAN LINKUP COMPLETE!

      Ohhh POP, not Poop!!! I thought you just liked playing spaceships on the can.

  • Since it's the relative speed that's important. The speed figures are only of use for those that tracks the shuttle and the telescope.

    Sometimes it's just baffling to see people goo "ooh" when someone states that they makes an extreme speed and then the people thinks that going that fast must be very dangerous.

    In a way it is, but only if something crosses your path. But that's the same when you are on the ground too.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't know, during my flight home I had a pretty hard time getting my microUSB plug traveling at 500mph linked up to my cell phone traveling at 500mph.

    • by MouseR (3264) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:21PM (#27944183) Homepage

      You make it sound as if it was simple.

      Of course, relative speed from the Shuttle to Hubbles is tiny.

      But to match their relative speed from the ground is still pretty hard. Getting the shuttle from zero MPH to 17,000+MPH within inches of the Hubble so that their own relative speed nears zero for a dock is by all means, pretty neat stuff.

      And for that, I go Oooh.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I once nailed a broad on the red eye out of LA. My johnson was moving at roughly 31,680,008 inches per second compared to her tawdry 31,680,000 inches per second.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209)

      Sometimes it's just baffling to see people goo "ooh" when someone states that they makes an extreme speed and then the people thinks that going that fast must be very dangerous.

      Well, the historical evidence confirms they're right, and you're wrong. Yes, you really do have to sit on top of enough propellent to push that massive shuttle straight up into the air and accelerate it to 17000 mph, with pinpoint precision. And sometimes, it blows up and everybody dies.

    • If two objects were flying formation in the Earth's atmosphere at Mach 3, matching their relative speed would be a big deal.

      Under terrestrial conditions, there are all manner of random perturbations and ways that energy can couple into systems (i.e. make them smash) that flying high speed formation is tricky. It is even more serious at supersonic speed and that is why rocket staging is non-trivial and all the problems Space-X was having with rocket tests.

      But in the vacuum of Earth orbital space, there

    • by djl4570 (801529)
      Speed figures are mostly meaningless. While they are going seventeen thousand miles per hour they are also accelerating towards the primary focus of an elliptical orbit. The acceleration is not uniform. The dynamics of an orbit are somewhat counter intuitive. Faster means a higher orbit, slower means a lower orbit. Catching up with something requires a higher orbit that intersects the orbit of the object you're chasing, when you and that object are at the point of intersection, then some well executed
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:09PM (#27943999)

    I used to bullseye wamprats in my T16 back home and they're not much bigger than the hubble

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Convector (897502)
      "What's that?"

      "It appears to be the Mother Ship."

      "Then what did we just blow up?"

      "The Hubble Telescope."
  • "flying through space at 17,200 MPH, 300 miles above the Earth's surface. "

    Not impressive.

    "flying through space at 17,200 MPH, 300 miles above the Earth's surface in opposirte directions."

    Impressive.
     

  • Would it be possible to drag the telescope and attach it to the space station.

    Seems like it would be a lot easier to service. Not to mention that cool Canada arm could work on it for years to come for a fraction of the cost.

    Hand over ownership to the international community and split the costs might also help.

    • Possible - yes,. Practical, not at all. The telescope and ISS orbits have much different orbital inclinations. A quick back-of the envelope calculation suggests you need to adjust the Hubble's speed by something like 11,000 feet/second to get it into the same orbit with the ISS. That means a HUGE rocket with tremendous propulsion capability. The shuttle is nowhere near capable of that, and anything you did build would have to be gigantic and filled with fuel to be able to do it. The translunar boost stage o

    • by AJWM (19027) *

      It's probably not possible, I doubt that the Shuttle has enough delta-vee when towing Hubble to make the necessary orbit plane and altitude changes.

      But you wouldn't want to do it even if it were possible: all those people moving around in IIS would shake hell out of the fine pointing accuracy of the telescope.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        On the other hand, if you COULD do it, it would be nifty to have it NEXT to the ISS. I suppose the shuttle could take up an engine module to transport it or something... But how long would it take?

    • The telescope is at a much higher altitude and probably also in a different orbital inclination. The change in velocity (delta-V) needed to get it to the same position as the ISS, -and- moving at the same direction and speed, is enormous. The shuttle doesn't have that kind of fuel. Not sure if -any- rocket we've put into orbit has ever carried enough fuel for that job. (If anything it would have been the rockets that took the Apollo astronauts out of Earth orbit and sent them toward the moon).
    • by H0p313ss (811249)

      Would it be possible to drag the telescope and attach it to the space station.

      Seems like it would be a lot easier to service. Not to mention that cool Canada arm could work on it for years to come for a fraction of the cost.

      Hand over ownership to the international community and split the costs might also help.

      In short, no. They're in completely different orbits for a reason.

    • by cheftw (996831)

      Your idea about attatching it to IIS is stupid. Everyone knows apache is way better!

      (modders: pun, not troll)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by 1u3hr (530656)
      They didn't spend a fortune putting the Hubble in a higher, more remote orbit for laughs. Lower orbits get more drag from the atmosphere. Anywhere close to the IIS and the Hubble's very delicate instruments and optics would be degraded by all the outgassing from the IIS, the rocket exhaust from visiting vessels. And all the bits and pieces that have fallen off the IIS over the years would be a big hazard. Would take just one bolt moving at high speed to smash a billion dollar mirror.
  • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:23PM (#27944215) Homepage Journal
    She and I were standing on the earth, which was moving around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour. We struggled to make our lips meet...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by H0p313ss (811249)

      She and I were standing on the earth, which was moving around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour. We struggled to make our lips meet...

      You're a lucky man! Most of my liaisons appear to be with people who are not on the same planet as me at all.

      • by RockWolf (806901)

        You're a lucky man! Most of my liaisons appear to be with people who are not on the same planet as me at all.

        Stop trying to hook up at a trekkie's conference, then...

        /~Rockwolf

    • She and I were standing on the earth, which was moving around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour. We struggled to make our lips meet...

      I have some experience trouble-shooting kissing problems, maybe I can be of service.

      First off, were you standing next to eachother? Your statement didn't make this clear; standing on different continents can be an serious issue.

      Secondly, is she powered up? Did you flip the switch? Is it depressed on the 0 side or the | side?

      Thirdly, did you check the cabling? Is the p

    • It does help to hold a biscuit or a stick of butter in your hand to get her attention. If you hold it at the right angle, she will be looking right at you although her eyes will be locked on your hand. Then it's just a matter of moving forward while puckering. Er, not that I know anything about this subject. Cough. Cough. ;)

  • by ChrisCampbell47 (181542) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @05:24PM (#27944233)

    Last fall during the run-up to the original launch date, NASA conducted their usual round of press briefings on this mission, 30 days prior to launch. The briefings included the usual information about the mission, the crew, the scheduled spacewalk work, etc.

    In addition to those briefings typical for any shuttle flight, they conducted a "science briefing" to explain what the work of this servicing mission was going to do for the scientific capabilities of Hubble. In the briefing was an all-star cast of astronomical scientists:

    • Ed Weiler, NASA administrator
    • David Leckrone, Hubble senior scientist
    • Robert O'Connell, committee chair for one of the two new instruments
    • James Green, principal investigator for the other new instrument
    • Heidi Hammel, scientist representing users of Hubble

    Each of them made a short speech and then the rest of the briefing was turned over to questions from the press. I would encourage anyone with even a fleeting interest in science or astronomy to take the time to download and watch the entire briefing, as it is truly fantastic stuff they're talking about, and these guys do a great job of explaining it to regular people. Certainly science could use a bit of a pep talk after weathering the last 8 years of the Bush administration's hostility to science and objective truths.

    In particular, the last person on the dais, Dr. Hammel, give an impassioned 10-minutes speech on the impact of Hubble on science and indeed on culture. It's an astonishing and beautiful statement on where we are in astronomical science and where we may be headed if this shuttle mission goes as planned. I'm surprised the press room didn't erupt in applause when she finished.

    Dr. Hammel's speech starts at the 38:50 mark in the first half of the briefing that I've linked below. If you don't have time to watch the entire 90-minute briefing, at least watch her 10 minutes.

    download page for first half of briefing [eu.org]

    download page for second half of briefing [eu.org]

    The above is adapted from an entry that I made to my personal blog back in September (not linked here). Sadly, I see that the above download links no longer work. I have not been able to find the briefing on Youtube, and the repeat briefings from a couple weeks ago did not include Dr. Hammel. FORTUNATELY, I did find most of Dr. Hammel's speech incorporated into a nice 5 minute video right here [youtube.com]. Please check it out!

    • Throughout its history, NASA has seemed to feel that part of having "the right stuff" is taking incredible activities and achievements and making them incredibly boring. Even allowing for them being extra slow and careful, this represents the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people to exacting standards, and it deserves at least as much hype as the last Olympic opening ceremony. NASA manages to turn it into a bus ride.
  • Obsolete Already? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Plekto (1018050) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @06:16PM (#27944921)

    Just in the last 24 hours we got a story on Slashdot about the new 30 meter telescope being built. Given the cost to fix Hubble and the non-zero danger that is present, why are we even bothering with it any more? The new 30 meter telescope will have 100x the power of Hubble and allow us to do everything we ever wished, including make upgrades and repairs as needed - all less than for the cost of the launch to repair Hubble(The 30 meter telescope is projected to cost 700-800 million versus 1.3 billion for just one Shuttle launch).

    http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/11/13/2010241&from=rss [slashdot.org]
    Hubble's already outclassed by Keck as well - so ground-based telescopes already make it almost entirely redundant.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well, from talking to an Astronomer friend of mine:

      1. Hubble is cheaper to repair and get good science out of than to purchase time on other ground based telescopes (shuttle costs not included)

      2. Hubble is up and running, the new 30 meter scope won't be done for a while

      3. Clouds/rain/etc suck

      4. Hubble has a greater field of vision than ground based telescopes (not limited to what you can see from your spot on the ground).

    • Re:Obsolete Already? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Glendale2x (210533) <{slashdot} {at} {ninjamonkey.us}> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @06:53PM (#27945287) Homepage

      Just in the last 24 hours we got a story on Slashdot about the new 30 meter telescope being built.

      Hubble works, and has worked, for years now. Why abandon something we have right now for something that we might have in 2018 assuming it's finished on time? While we're waiting, we should also demolish all ground based telescopes that will be inferior and just put science on hold until then.

      Hubble's already outclassed by Keck as well - so ground-based telescopes already make it almost entirely redundant.

      Hubble can see ultraviolet, Keck can't. Even if it could, Hubble doesn't have to worry about the atmospheric turbulence.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by coppro (1143801)
      Because space telescopes can see radiation distorted or blocked entirely by the atmosphere, and repairing the Hubble is still cheaper than making a new space telescope. Sure, the TMT will have better resolving power, but that won't make it any more able to detect what isn't there.
    • Re:Obsolete Already? (Score:4, Informative)

      by againjj (1132651) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @07:11PM (#27945483)
      Hubble does things that ground-based telescopes can not. Wikipedia states it well:

      Although the HST has clearly had a significant impact on astronomical research, the financial cost of this impact has been large. A study on the relative impacts on astronomy of different sizes of telescopes found that while papers based on HST data generate 15 times as many citations as a 4 m ground-based telescope such as the William Herschel Telescope, the HST costs about 100 times as much to build and maintain.[83]

      Making the decision between investing in ground-based versus space-based telescopes in the future is complex. Even before Hubble was launched, specialized ground-based techniques such as aperture masking interferometry had obtained higher-resolution optical and infrared images than Hubble would achieve, though restricted to targets about 108 times brighter than the faintest targets observed by Hubble.[84][85] Since then, advances in adaptive optics have extended the high-resolution imaging capabilities of ground-based telescopes to the infrared imaging of faint objects. The usefulness of adaptive optics versus HST observations depends strongly on the particular details of the research questions being asked. In the visible bands, adaptive optics can only correct a relatively small field of view, whereas HST can conduct high-resolution optical imaging over a wide field. Only a small fraction of astronomical objects are accessible to high-resolution ground-based imaging; in contrast Hubble can perform high-resolution observations of any part of the night sky, and on objects that are extremely faint.

      In short, Hubble does high-resolution photos and photos of faint objects well because it does not have to deal with the atmosphere.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      Just in the last 24 hours we got a story on Slashdot about the new 30 meter telescope being built. Given the cost to fix Hubble and the non-zero danger that is present, why are we even bothering with it any more?

      Because Hubble can do a number of important things that ground based scopes can't possibly do - like looking deep into the parts of the IR and UV bands that the atmosphere absorbs.

      The new 30 meter telescope will have 100x the power of Hubble and allow us to do everything we ever wish

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Plekto (1018050)

        Except if you actually follow the links and read the comments - you find that at best the Keck merely equals the performance of Hubble, it doesn't even remotely outclass it.

        Equaling Hubble but not costing 1.3 billion for a Shuttle launch to fix it is a big deal to me. It's not only that newer ground based telescopes are catching up with it. It's also about the insane cost to keep it running. That we can almost build two of those 30 meter telescopes for the cost of this one Shuttle launch makes me wonder why we bother.

        It's not like we're rolling in money, either. Hubble was great when it was launched, but it's just to expensive to run any more. And God help us if we need t

        • I keep hearing about how all of these other ground based telescopes with adaptive optics are "better than Hubble", but I've yet to see a single one actually top the four pixel image Hubble made of Pluto. Let me know when any ground based telescope can actually resolve Pluto's surface features, and then I'll be a believer.

          The thing is, adaptive optics have limitations. Hubble does not have them. Space based astronomy is a powerful asset.

          Quite honestly, I think the whole debate over manned versus unmanned

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          Simple.
          Do you really think that if they didn't launch the Hubble update mission that the money would have gone to JPL, Keck, the 30 Meter telescope, or the JWST?
          If so I have a lot of very valuable real estate in south Florida I can sell you cheap.
          If we let Hubble fail then I can actually see them not funding the JWST because we can live without a space telescope.
          Also I do not hear many Astronomers that want to be without the HST. Frankly the more Telescopes the better.

        • Equaling Hubble but not costing 1.3 billion for a Shuttle launch to fix it is a big deal to me. It's not only that newer ground based telescopes are catching up with it. It's also about the insane cost to keep it running. That we can almost build two of those 30 meter telescopes for the cost of this one Shuttle launch makes me wonder why we bother.

          When newer ground based scopes come even close to replacing Hubble, call me. They're getting closer but their still a long way off. *That* is why we bother - pl

  • Bah thats nuttin' (Score:1, Redundant)

    by shaitand (626655)

    " The 'link up' between the Space Shuttle and Hubble was a very delicate one as the two were flying through space at 17,200 MPH"

    That's nothing, the linkup between me and my laptop was a very delicate one as we were both flying through space at roughly 67,000 MPH; 91,000,000 miles above the surface of the sun!

  • Don't forget, they're broadcasting the whole operation live on Nasa TV.
    http://www.nasa.gov/ntv [nasa.gov]

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