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Space Science

Astronauts, Robots to Save Hubble 213

BungoMan85 writes "Astronauts who serviced the Hubble Space Telescope, among others, feel that NASA's administrator Sean O'Keefe shouldn't be too quick to abandon the now 14 year old space telescope because of safety concerns arising from the Columbia disaster." And an anonymous reader writes "At the insistance of congress, NASA is looking for a way to save the Hubble. "It's the most unpopular decision I could have made," Sean O'Keefe said of his decision to cancel the shuttle mission planned to fix Hubble. He has authorized his engineers to pursue the possiblity of a robotic rescue mission. This could be a great opportunity for private industry contractors."
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Astronauts, Robots to Save Hubble

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  • Screw it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mphase ( 644838 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @02:53AM (#8619272) Homepage
    I'm sure they could find a couple dudes who would be willing to take the risk, they should just suck it up and go.
    • Re:Screw it (Score:5, Funny)

      by irokitt ( 663593 ) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .ruai-setirdnamihcra.> on Saturday March 20, 2004 @02:55AM (#8619292)
      Are Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck doing anything important right now?
    • by Wildman Larry ( 699386 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @04:48AM (#8619637) Journal
      Sure there are astronauts that would do this, and test pilots and jet jocks galore. Fortunately it's not their decision to make. An older and wiser head has looked at the risk (much larger then previously thought) consider the consequences if it went to hell (loss of yet another shuttle, loss of five to seven MORE astronauts, NASA being gutted after Congress and the public scream in outrage about "Why did you ever do such a thing after the Columbia boards recommendations???") and all the various other fall out, and decided the game ain't worth the candle. Look nobody wants to see Hubble fail, and NASA isn't talking about splashing it down tomorrow. It's got a few good years left. The problem is that the upgrades would only keep it going for five to seven years longer then otherwise and it simply isn't worth risking the human lives and cost to the program. The stars and galaxies and all will be there in a dozen years, why not use this sudden outpouring of concern for this myopic bird, to build a better scope and launch it? Why so much sudden attachment to a scope that everybody and I mean EVERYBODY jumped all over as a bat-blind hair-brained piece of junk when it was launched? I mean it's nice to be loved and all, but let's get some perspective. The truth is that it would be much more fun to design and build a better scope and do even better research. I'm not talking James T. Webb here, I mean a new visible light to UV scope, with better resolution and more thought into the science we would like to do, now that we know what kind of science we can do. And build one that doesn't require the Shuttle, because Shuttle is gone once ISS is finished.
      We have three shuttles left out of five (which means that we can only do 3/5 of the mission flights we had planned to do every year), we have much more hardware for ISS, which is even more expensive then the repair and replacement parts for Hubble, sitting around in Florida. We have numerous international treaty commitments to our partners, many of whom are supposed to be paid with flight time on ISS for their contributions, which have to be honored. And after the Columbia boards recommendations any NASA administrator that decided to still go ahead with shuttle mission, at those orbital parameters, would be putting himself out on a very long limb, far, far above the ground, and inviting old man Murphy to come along with a saw. Commonsense says "Sorry, but this is a bridge to far." Understand that the game is changed. We got burned once, thought we had learned our mistakes, fixed the obvious problems we saw and went back to flying it. Now we've been burned again, and a LOT of the reasons sound hauntingly familiar. Well fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. NASA manned flight has suddenly gotten VERY, VERY RISK ADVERSE. The idea that "Oh well we fixed these problems, now it's all better" suddenly sounds like a lot of Pollyannaish nonsense. NASA will do what it must with the shuttles, but it will hold its collective breath every time it launches one from now on. Safety is no longer our watchword; it's the ONLY damn thing I hear about nowadays. Congress might vote to override O'Keefe, if they do then on their heads be it. If they do then they better get ready to collectively resign if anything goes wrong, and they better have the letters to the families written in advance, just in case, cause that's what Shawn O'Keefe would have to do if he had made the decision and it went pants, as the Brits say. Those who are so quick to judge aren't the people that will have to explain it to the president, congress, the families, and the general public, until they are, they can darn well be a lot less dogmatic about this. And that's my view for whatever it's worth.

      • An older and wiser head has looked at the risk (much larger then previously thought)

        No, that's not right. The risk of failure after the wiser heads of CAIB investigated the Shuttle fleet was the same as the assessed risk before the accident. Nothing has changed about our knowledge of the risks involved in a shuttle mission before and after the accident. Only the willingness to face the risks has changed, and that abruptly.

        In your post, you sound as if it's some huge suprise that there's a risk of deat
      • Sure there are astronauts that would do this, and test pilots and jet jocks galore. Fortunately it's not their decision to make. An older and wiser head has looked at the risk (much larger then previously thought) consider the consequences if it went to hell

        Unfortunate choice of words here. You do know that the Christian right started complaining about Hubble as soon as it started to show images that might conflict with creationism?

        Its like the 9/11 thing, catastrophe happens, the immediate Bush respons

      • Astronauts have been dying in accidents since the 60s. One shuttle blew up in 1986, before Hubble was put up. You think the mission to put Hubble in orbit was risk-free? The repair missions? Of course not. And it was known then that they were risky. Nothing has changed except the identification of a new flaw in a field where errors can mean instant death.
    • I'm sure they could find a couple dudes who would be willing to take the risk, they should just suck it up and go.
      Sure they could, with very few problems.

      The *real* problem is that we are risking something nearly irreplaceable, the Shuttle Orbiter itself.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I know the Hubble telescope has done some great science, but shouldn't we just let it go so we have more money to put up the next generation telescope?

    Or is this really about hating Bush's attempt to bring a man to Mars, and undermining it anyway possible just because he's Bush? I can't see why people are suddenly spendthrift when a Republican president wants to do something, but we can spend billions on welfare and hike taxes up to strangulating levels without anyone complaining under a Democrat.
    • by Have Blue ( 616 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @03:19AM (#8619390) Homepage
      According to current plans, there will be several years between the Hubble being decommissioned and a new space telescope taking its place, and that's assuming everything goes according to Bush's plan. There's no alternate instrument that can do what the Hubble does during that time, so a large subsection of astronomy as a whole would be crippled.
      • by Buran ( 150348 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @03:25AM (#8619420)
        And then there's the fact that it's just insane to throw away something that is doing a fantastic job and can continue to do so if a small investment is made to keep it running. It's like throwing away an old Civic just because you might buy a BMW -- no reason you can't keep both cars in your garage, and there are just some things that a Civic makes sense for. Plus, with two cars you have more resources available.

        And, the additional Hubble instruments have already been built and are just waiting to be launched!
        • ... continue to do so if a small investment is made...

          This is why your analogy is bad. The point is that it is not a small investment. NASA would have to violate the recommendations of the CAIB report for safety, actually create known unsafe conditions, and risk the entire shuttle (and ISS) program just to keep the Hubble alive. This is most definitely not a small investment.

          But is it worth the substantial risk? I'm not sure. I'd need to know more about what progress can be achieved in the few yea

          • I agree with you 100% on the matters surrounding flying the Shuttle again.

            There is a matter regarding developing a robot to service the Hubble. Part of the party line on the manned space program is the limitation of robots. While the Hubble optics error was a dark moment for NASA, the Hubble repair mission with a lot of complex, long space walks was a "jewel in the crown" of the manned space program, and if they can get a robot to do the repair, it would kind of puncture that concept.

            On the other hand

            • No. You can't. Hubble cost several billion dollars to develop and launch. And many years to build and design and launch and so on. And it makes a lot more sense to build a telescope that can be upgraded over time with new equipment as new ideas and technologies come along than it does to just throw it away. Should we have failed to convert the Hale telescope to digital and just razed it or let it go to ruin when newer, sometimes better ideas came along? You'd rightfully have astronomers up in arms, just lik
          • And we were insane and stupid to go to the hubble and repair it all those previous times? Out of our minds to retrieve that Intelsat satellite? Lunatics to repair and release Solar Max? Irresponsible to retrieve a comsat whose kick-motor failed to start?

            Where were all the naysayers then?
            • Where were all the naysayers then?

              Read the CAIB report. Nobody really understood the risk then. The shuttle had been prematurely declared "operational" (for political reasons) when it was (and is) still experimental. NASA had become complacent in failures and irregularities because they were "within experience", meaning they were using the faulty logic of "these things have gone wrong before without disaster, therefore they are ok".

              And yes, "we" (NASA) were a little stupid to go to Hubble in the fir

              • I have read the report. And we actually knew all along about this particular problem and had developed, or started to, ways to inspect the tiles and repair them in orbit. At the time, there was no way to get it working, but not for lack of trying. (That research has been resumed with new information and knowledge developed over the past few decades.)

                It's ridiculous to change our tune this late in the game and decide we're a bunch of wimps. And I'm ashamed to say some of my taxes go toward such idiotic noti
                • And we actually knew all along about this particular problem

                  If you mean the foam, yes, that's the point. NASA knew about it, but didn't consider it to be serious because it had been seen a number of times before without damaging the wing, and therefore is withing "engineering experience".

                  What nobody paid attention to was the seriosness of this danger, and the logical fallacy of the "it hasn't caused significant damage yet, therefore it must be ok" belief.

                  At the time, there was no way to get it worki

                  • We need to get something straight here, and the point I was trying to make was apparently completely missed.

                    There is fixing a problem by burying your head in the sand and claiming you're not going to deal with the situation that causes the problem, thus "fixing" the problem. Which is what's going on. What was done in the past isn't as relevant as what gets done now and what kind of attitude there is toward getting it done. It's nowhere near satisfactory.

                    And then there is really fixing the problem by actua
                    • The bullshit-mongerers need to be fired and real engineers brought in who will come up with a real answer.

                      As one of the engineers who is working on getting the shuttles back up and flying, I take offense to that. Just getting them back up to the ISS is extremely expensive and difficult. Examining the thermal protection system for damage is no simple task. And that's just detecting and measuring damage. Fixing damage in space is far more difficult and expensive to develop. Finally, the necessity for a

                    • Then we'll probably end up disagreeing to some extent. That's life, it's to be expected. Nobody's necessarily an idiot. I just happen to think it's perfectly doable and a lot more "worth it" than a lot of people do, after lots of skims of different discussions of this that have turned up on Slashdot and elsewhere. Some people think it's even more "worth it" than I do. And I know other space-buffs and program engineers and all kinds of people who know what they're talking about if I ask them about something,
      • by Mr_Huber ( 160160 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @03:51AM (#8619498) Homepage
        Also, the Hubble's replacement, the James Webb Space Telescope [] isn't quite a replacement for Hubble. It won't be launched until 2012, does not see in quite the same region of the spectrum and will be sitting at L2, well out of the range for servicing.

        One of the things that has made the Hubble truely unique is the ability to be serviced. Each service mission has improved the telescope's capabilities tremendously. The Webb, for all its grandure, once it is up, it is up. No serviceing mission to bolt on a new camera, no trips to fix the optics. What we get day 1 is what we get day 100 and day 1000.

        In the meantime, we will have at least six years without an optical range space telescope. That's six years of supernovae, six years of gamma ray bursts, six years of star formation, six years of light echos and six years of deep field astronomy that simply WILL NOT HAPPEN.

        This is rediculous. Fix the damned telescope.
      • Oh goodness, what shall Astronomers do all day then? (Yes, this is sarcasm.)
    • by LMCBoy ( 185365 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @03:35AM (#8619452) Homepage Journal
      I know the Hubble telescope has done some great science, but shouldn't we just let it go so we have more money to put up the next generation telescope?

      No, we should not just let it go, especially not when we've already spent $200 million on the instruments that are supposed to be installed in the next mission. HST is quite possibly the greatest scientific instrument anyone's ever built. You don't just throw it away unless you really have to.

      Or is this really about hating Bush's attempt to bring a man to Mars, and undermining it anyway possible just because he's Bush?

      Look, no one believes that Bush is serious about a manned mission to Mars, least of all the man himself. His proposed reshuffling of the NASA budget to pay for it is sub-laughable.

      I can't see why people are suddenly spendthrift when a Republican president wants to do something, but we can spend billions on welfare and hike taxes up to strangulating levels without anyone complaining under a Democrat.

      Please, get serious. What are these "strangulating" tax levels you are talking about, and under whose administration did they occur? If you look at this page [], you'll see that tax rates have not appreciably changed since 1980. In fact, that same chart will show you that most people's taxes were actually lower in 2000, when the Man You Love To Hate left office, compared to 1992, when he took office.

      Maybe people seem spendthrift because the Bush administration is mangling our budget with explosive spending programs coupled with irresponsible tax breaks for the rich. This results in (suprise, suprise) huge deficits which our children's children will be paying for. This isn't "just party politics"; fiscal conservatives are crying foul about Bush Economics as well.
      • by ciroknight ( 601098 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @03:54AM (#8619503)
        I don't want to sound rude, but why must we take this to politics... this is a civilian space agency, and we should treat it as such (and not some government pet project as most administrations have used it: Kennedy for the space race, Bush for gaining a stab of popularity and spicing up discussions everywhere).

        Politics aside, we've made an investment. 15 years of a working Hubble telescope. That time runs out next year and we're still a solid 6 years behind on a solid replacement (which, is still questionable, since everything I read tells me it is planned to be like the Spitzer telescope and take pictures in Infrared). We also made the investment on 200 Million USD on upgrades to Hubble. 200 Million dollars is a lot of money to put towards something that can probably never be used with any other piece of equipment except Hubble, and not put it to use.

        And I don't buy this Bullshit O'Queef is selling us about the worries of the shuttles. They're operable as is already, and what happened on Columbia was a freak accident that nobody thought to try to explain until it was too late. Maybe the money that could be going to building these "robots" could instead be used to build a wing crawler, to crawl out and service the underbelly of the Shuttle in case of such a disaster.
        • by QuantumFTL ( 197300 ) * on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:06AM (#8619698)
          200 Million dollars is a lot of money to put towards something that can probably never be used with any other piece of equipment except Hubble, and not put it to use.

          This is actually a logical falacy. I learned about this in a decision theory class I was in for a while at Cornell University. Previous investments should not directly affect economic decisions like this, only the current situation. That is, just because we spent lots of $$$ to make Plan A work does not mean we should continue with Plan A even if Plan B does the same thing for less additional money.

          Imagine that you buy a truck for $10000. You then end up putting several more thousand dollars into it for repairs (like we did with the hubble). You even got a nice big turbocharger to put on it for when it's fixed next... however you get a bill saying it'll cost $4000 to fix the truck. And it's getting old. And lets say truck technology has advanced so much that for $4000 you can get a nice brand new truck that's even better. Rational decision-making dictates you would purchase the new truck - despite how much money you put into it in the past.

          I'm not suggesting that we currently have an alternative to Hubble that does the same thing for a better price, however previous investments SHOULD NOT dictate our policies, only the current scientific/economic facts.

          Disclaimer: I work for NASA/JPL, but as a software engineer.

          Justin Wick
          • Actually, while you're logic's correct, it's not quite the same situation.

            It's more like you have that $4000 bill to fix the truck, and while you can buy a new truck for $4000, you can't take delivery for a few years.

            So, either you're without a truck, or you suck it up and spend the money to fix it in the mean time, while ordering that other truck.
          • I think your analogy is bad. It's as if you had already purchased some new part for your old truck for $4000, and had hired someone to install it. You are already planning to buy the new truck in 4 years. So, you can either pay the guy $50 to install the part and drive your awesome tricked-out truck for 4 years, or you can refuse, and walk for 4 years. Oh, and you'll have that fancy $4000 part lying around your living room, doing squat. Maybe you can make it into some kind of ashtray!
      • In fact, that same chart will show you that most people's taxes were actually lower in 2000

        Hmm, you may want to check the data you linked to (I had ditfully transcribed it but apparently too many numbers triggers slashdots lameness filter *shrug*):

        As for the average tax rate (average rate you pay for each dollar in a tiered tax system such as the one the US has), correct me if I am wrong but 7.54% is less than 10.58%, 14.36% is less than 15.67%, and 20.33% is less than 20.90%.

        Those are the numbers I get
        • He was talking about Bill Clinton, not Bush Jr, as the man we love to hate. He also was not comparing 2000 to 2001, but as he explicitly said, 1992 to 2000. He was showing that the average income rose and the percent taken from taxes reduced.

          I do think this aspect is out of context, though.
        • I was responding to a post that claimed that Democrats in office cause "strangulating" tax rates. By no account do the numbers show that.

          Yes, taxes went down in 2002, halleluleah and all praise Bush (peace be unto him). Well, No. As I expressed elsewhere in this thread, I believe these tax cuts were fiscally irresponsible and motivated by a desire to starve congress of money. Tax cuts are fine, if we can afford them. I think it's obvious that we cannot in this case.
      • my main issue with bush is that he seems to magically pull money out from nowhere.

        throws a buncha money at Iraq, throws a bunch of money into the military, thros a buncha money into organizations devoted to give companies more control over the consumer, more money towards homeland security and the FBI, etc.
        There are many others as well I dont feel like listing...

        For a wishy washy economy at the moment, we sure have a lot of money to throw around.
    • Oh, I didn't realize that the money saved on the servicing mission would go into another space telescope. Oh, that's because it won't. There is already a Next Generation Space Telescope, and it is already funded. The servicing mission money will just go toward the deficit, a tiny drop in the giant bucket, and the billions of dollars invested in Hubble will not produce any more science or pretty pictures or good will of any sort. There are some valid reasons to question the servicing mission, but money i
    • by Douglas Simmons ( 628988 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @04:07AM (#8619545) Homepage
      I'll tell you why everyone's so Hubble-happy: NASA pulled a little reverse psychology on us and it worked.

      As time passes, especially after a SNAFU [] or a poorly executed Let's Go To Mars! speech, the public's perceived value of NASA falls. Everyone's talkin' trash, saying "Why do we need to spend billions to develop a pen that can write upside down when people are starving?" and the like.

      However, if the government, unprovoked, says "Hey everybody, we're going to disintigrate the Hubble and how do you like that" then the people apparently have the opposite reaction. Most people do not know anything about the Hubble other than it's a Good Thing. What a shame it would be to destroy it! So, by announcing plans to toss the Hubble in the garbage, NASA effectively primed the public to be willing to spend more dollars on space-related stuff.

    • by Almost-Retired ( 637760 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:12AM (#8619722) Homepage
      but shouldn't we just let it go ?

      If you are asking that question honestly, then its obvious to the scientists among us that you have little or no appreciation for the information that this great instrument has brought us, and will continue to bring us for quite some time if its maintained. That instrument has single-handedly multiplied our knowledge of the universe we live in by a factor of at least 100, and refined some of our +- 50% guesses down to +- 5%, simply by being beyond the reach of the limitations in optical bandwidth that our planets atmosphere places on all the ground based scopes. Its done things that all the active optical stuff we've put on mountains so high that they are run by remote control still couldn't do.

      The "next generation" telescope everyone is drooling over is designed to do an entirely different job, and is in no way capable of overlapping what the Hubble can do in the visible and near infrared spectrum. And it will be like the Hubble in terms of delays, so I don't see it going up in my remaining lifetime since I'm 69 now. Yes, it will also do good science when it goes up, but it cannot do what the Hubble is doing in the wavelength range between visible light and near infrared, say an octave either way from yellow/green as our eyes see color. IIRC its designed to work in the far infrared and into the microwave, where its resolution at best will be 1/10th that of the Hubble. But it will see thru dust clouds the Hubble can't too. We won't know what the region around Sag A really looks like until it does go up, Sag A IIRC, is supposedly very near if not the black hole this galaxy spins around.

      As far as a manned mission to mars is concerned, thats where I feel that the remoteness and generally inhospitable conditions which combine to make it a one way trip preclude using anything but prisoners already sentenced to death for such a mission.

      Considering the intelligence level of someone dumb enough to have gotten themselves in such a predicament in the first place, I'm not too sure that we would gain much in the way of scientific knowledge by following that distastefull to many path.

      I look at it as political posturing, an attempt at giving NASA a "reason de terre", as opposed to fireing that whole bunch and starting all over again. Thats something we should have done when the first one blew up. This new shuttle loss just confirms that the old boy network that covers their ass MOST of the time by sheer luck alone, is still in place.

      Human nature being what it is, I'm not even 75% sure that a total housecleaning would even fix it now. But I think a wholesale fireing, and maybe even a highly public manslaughter prosecution of the decision maker who passed on the loose foam problem might have a sobering effect on all the pie in the sky folks NASA seems to have collected down thru the decades. Nobody learned anything about common sense safety after the fire in Houston (and the test admin who ordered that test should have been prosecuted for murder) nor from Apollo 13 when there was a clear indication of a problem with the tank heaters thermostat before they launched, the only thing actually fixed was the booster seals after the late 80's blowup, and this time the loose foam was known, and had been known for at least the last 20 launches, possibly for much more time than that. But nobody has stepped forward to actually admit that doing the launch was a bad idea, "after all, it hasn't been a problem before now, why should this time be any different?"

      IMO that attitude will not change until someone actually does some hard time. The agency needs the same accountability as you and I would get in a prosecution for no less than manslaughter in 3 of these 4 "accidents".

      Cheers, Gene

  • with the above post. 14 years is an eternity in the world of technology. For (probably) 3 times the cost of the repair mission, a telescope of (probably) 100 times the quality of hubble could be deployed. I can see why hubble has sentimental value, but really, it's time to move on.
    • by dmadole ( 528015 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @03:04AM (#8619328)
      Read the article. The cancelled mission was not just to service the telescope in terms of maintenance, it was also to install new instruments worth $167 million as an upgrade.

      If they can upgrade what's already there to new technology, why launch a new one? I'm sure the idea of replacing it completely has been considered and the costs weighed.
    • It would be nice though to put Hubble into a maintainable orbit, maybe even rent it/sell it to a company who wants to take pictures of the heavens and sell them. Even with it being aging technology, I don't believe it should just be discarded like the other aging satelites.. it is a testimate to human ingeniuity that it lasted this long and I believe it should be preserved.

      Maybe if we can't put it in a sustainable orbit (for repairs and such) why not bring it back to earth? AFAIK this has never been don
      • I wasn't implying that we *junk* hubble, I think you have some great ideas, hopefully NASA will do something similar eventually. I just think that we would be better served than repairing a clearly obselete peice of equipment.
        • And what, exactly, is obsolete about Hubble? Seriously, tell me. Sure, the computers are slow, but they do the job fine. The gyroscopes could last longer. But those are functionalities that don't affect the bottom line if they do their job. The instruments could be updated, the very key thing, AND THAT IS WHAT THE SERVICING MISSION WILL DO. Hubble is still producing great science still today that no other facility can touch. When we've already spent a few billion on the thing, a few hundred million i
    • by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @03:24AM (#8619411) Journal
      For (probably) 3 times the cost of the repair mission, a telescope of (probably) 100 times the quality of hubble could be deployed.

      Do you have *any* basis for a claim like this, other than "your gut feeling"?

      14 years is a long time, around 10 iterations of the "performance doubling every 12-18 months" if you're talking about computer technology. But optical technology has been stable for quite some time. Or, do also claim to have binoculars 512x-1024x better than your dad's?

      Remember, Hubble is not a computer - it's a telescope. And, since image processing is done on the ground, advances in computer technology are likely largely irrelevant to the Hubble.
      • Only thing I can think that might be different between the time when Hubble was launched and now is the technology used in the collection of the image itself. We can make much more sensitive CCD's (or CMOS's, which NASA would probably prefer...) for cheaper now, allowing for a much higher resolution picture to be taken.. BUT: since we're already building another telescope, there's no reason at all to throw money at upgrading this piece of hardware, since it would undoubtedly require quite invasive work.

    • It's also worth noting that the costs to build upgrades to Hubble have already been incurred, since the development of more Hubble telescope additions has already completed (176 million USD worth). It'd be worth it just to put these new additions to the telescope into use, and upgrade it's batteries and gyros so that the instruments are given a real chance at life.

      The James Webb cosmic observatory isn't ready yet (Hubble's successor), and won't be until 2011, whereas Hubble was due for retirement in 20
    • by mbrother ( 739193 ) <> on Saturday March 20, 2004 @03:49AM (#8619486) Homepage
      Yeah, well don't post an ignorant opinion if you don't know what you're talking about. Insightful not! Other posters have pointed out that the servicing mission is to install more modern technology on the telescope -- EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT! And for image quality (spatial resolution, which is what Hubble does best) 100 times that of Hubble, you'd need a 250 meter telescope in space, which we probably can't do this CENTURY unless we spent the entire GDP. We have a better telescope planned right now (the James Webb Telescope budgeted at yes, about 3 times the repair mission cost), for probably 2012, which is better, but not 100 times better, and won't work in the ultraviolet AT ALL. I'm an astronomer who uses Hubble, and I bust my ass working on proposals to use the thing because I have science to do that I can only do with Hubble, not for sentimental reasons. With new instruments, there is more unique science to come that can be done no other way. Sorry for YELLING, ErichTheWebGuy, but I've had a few glasses of wine and my tolerance for ignorant spouting off tonight isn't too high. There are pros and cons to the Hubble servicing issue, you sound like an idiot telling astronomers like me that the telescope is obsolete.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 20, 2004 @02:58AM (#8619306)
    Ebay should buy the telescope just to sell it. They'd make a packet in exposure and hopefully break even on the sale.

    Translation: Good business opportunities for private enterprises here. No need to waste the damn thing.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @02:58AM (#8619309) Homepage
    The "Flight Telerobotic Servicer" [] was supposed to maintain the International Space Station. Didn't work, but total spending was somewhere around $50 million before Congress pulled the plug.
  • scared (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mehtars ( 655511 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @02:59AM (#8619314)
    i for one, think that nasa is scared more than anything. I mean, the space shuttle blew up this past year, and it would be bad PR if another one did as well...

    people have been saying that tehse shuttles are unsafe for years .cfm?Story_ID=2021217
    • Re:scared (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eclectro ( 227083 )
      i for one, think that nasa is scared more than anything.

      I really think that is it. They must have known that not servicing the hubble would be an extremely unpopular decion.

      But they started to look at all the nuts and bolts of things that could go wrong and they had to start being honest with themselves.

      There has been a specific culture in Nasa to overlook bad engineering that could be a major problem later on.

      They knew that foam was falling off the shuttle since day one, but they just ignored it not
      • Spaceplanes instead would be nice, but they simply do not exist

        So, what energy sources/drive technologies are available today that would let us create them? Or is it not an issue of energy density and efficiency of the engines, but of materials technology? Inquiring minds want to know.

    • I don't think it's that they're scared per se. It's more political than that. If O'Keefe had OK'd a Hubble repair mission (in direct contravention of the CAIB's requirement that all shuttle missions be in station-accessible orbits) and then the shuttle used for that mission had a mishap both NASA and O'Keefe would be in BIG trouble. By doing what he has done O'Keefe has basically managed to pass the buck to some other sucker - Admiral Gehman, head of the CAIB, has been asked to review the Hubble mission
  • I agree that the Hubble is getting old, but it's still got plenty of useful life left. There's just no way that any current ground-based telescope can get the same kind of data that the Hubble can right now.

    A better telescope can certainly be designed now, and NASA should get on the ball with designing and building it -- but that will take some time, and in the meantime, we should keep the Hubble in good repair because it's still a very powerful and useful tool.

  • by dmadole ( 528015 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @03:07AM (#8619342)
    How about we hire the Russians either to do the work themselves or to transport our guys up to do it?

    They seem to have manned launch technology available with a decent reliability and safety record.

    It may well be cheaper that it would cost to do it ourselves, as well. Outsourcing, right?
    • by HanzoSpam ( 713251 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @03:42AM (#8619472)
      How about we hire the Russians either to do the work themselves or to transport our guys up to do it?

      They seem to have manned launch technology available with a decent reliability and safety record.

      Yes, they do have a decent reliability and safety record.

      Unfortunately, what they don't have is a space shuttle for transporting the components that need to be replaced.
      • They managed to launch large sections of the ISS space station, and before that, the Mir station.
        I think for the cost of a shuttle mission, they'd be motivated to get whatever the Hubble needs in orbit.

        And not a single oh, so precious, American life would be risked...
      • Nor is there module capable of 'grabbing' the telescope, and has no airlock so even if they did they wouldn't be able to leave the module.

        It *could* be used as a rescue pod if the shuttle did sustain damage on launch. Perhaps they should take one up with them? Or keep one prepared on the ground, if the shuttle is unable to launch then send up the rescue pod.
        • Nor is there module capable of 'grabbing' the telescope, and has no airlock so even if they did they wouldn't be able to leave the module.

          I think the module that would be capable of grabbing the telescope is called a 'man'. Not sure what the name is in Russian. I suspect they could also come up with a technology called a 'tether' or maybe a 'bar' that could be used to attach the telescope and the Russian craft together in orbit.

          And why would an airlock be necessary? That's not how they did EVA with th

          • Nor is there module capable of 'grabbing' the telescope, and has no airlock so even if they did they wouldn't be able to leave the module.

            In fact, it turns out the Russians were the first to spacewalk. They've had the technology longer than us!

            For an interesting history, see [].

      • How about we hire the Russians either to do the work themselves or to transport our guys up to do it?

        They seem to have manned launch technology available with a decent reliability and safety record.

        Yes, they do have a decent reliability and safety record.

        Actually, they don't. When you compare actual numbers, Soyuz is at best no worse than the Shuttle. In several significant areas (notably overall reliability), Soyuz is actually *worse*.

        Soyuz proponents like to point to the 'fact' that'Soyuz hasn't kill

    • I don't think the Russians have any launch vehicles right now that can accomodate the kind of Extra-Vehicular Activity necessary to service the Hubble. Anyone who knows better, feel free to correct me.
    • I don't think the Russians could reach the Hubble's orbit from their launch locations. Because of their more northerly launch sites, I guess they can only reach highly inclined orbits (at least without expending a ton of fuel).

      Isn't that the reason why the ISS is in such a high (steep) orbit, unlike the Hubble - and why anyone servicing Hubble can't take refuge in the ISS if anything goes wrong?
  • Plan all along? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rufus211 ( 221883 ) <{gro.hsikcah} {ta} {todhsals-sufur}> on Saturday March 20, 2004 @03:11AM (#8619361) Homepage
    Hrm, if I was cynical I would say that this was the plan all along.

    1) Scrap really popular program.
    2) Get everyone yelling to bring it back
    3) Say you can't unless because you lack the budget
    4) Profit!!
  • Risk factors?... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xxx_Birdman_xxx ( 676056 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @03:20AM (#8619395)
    I find this comment in the article interesting..
    .. deeming it too risky to astronauts in the wake of Columbia...

    The risk factors haven't changed, those running the space program have always known the risks. It's not like Columbia's terrible accident made those in charge suddenly go "oh, maybe this space stuff is dangerous after all..."

    It's not the risk factors that have changed, it's the public's view of the risks that have changed.

    • Re:Risk factors?... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 20, 2004 @03:34AM (#8619448)
      But which way has the public's view changed? I think that some percentage of us are more informed of the risks involved, which in itself should be considered a good thing.

      On the surface doesn't it appear that Sean O'Keefe is more concerned about avoiding another catastrophe rather than focusing on real safety? That type of thinking leads to unwilligness to take risks which is showing up in the form of bad decisions such as the one that pertains to not servicing the Hubble telescope.
  • Tough call... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SillyKing ( 720191 )
    NASA is I'm sure hesitant to send up another shuttle crew for any reason. They are asking astronauts to willingly go into space on a vehicle much older than most peoples cars, to fix a telescope that also has "dated" technology. We are young enough into space exploration that these accidents may happen. We just don't have the tech to make space travel safe just yet. But how many people does the world have that would line up to go into space despite the risks? More than you, or perhaps NASA might think. I
  • Wrongheaded policy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by r_j_prahad ( 309298 ) <r_j_prahad@hot[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Saturday March 20, 2004 @04:04AM (#8619528)
    The Hubble telescope continues to make headlines after more than a dozen years. Only last week on the news I saw photos of the deepest (and consequently earliest) space pictures ever taken, and they came from Hubble. Dropping this incredible resource into the ocean because of a relatively small budgetary shortfall is a horrendous waste of taxpayer money.

    Chances are, if we crash it, we'll never get another. I'm getting old, I want to see some of those ancient mysteries of space solved in my lifetime.
    • by theCoder ( 23772 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @08:39AM (#8620163) Homepage Journal
      I'm really hoping the decision to not save Hubble was really a brilliant diversionary tatic to get more money for NASA. If NASA had originally committed to servicing Hubble, then they probably would have had to cut somewhere else, where probably very few people would have cared. But if they decide to scrap it, and everyone (including Congress, with all the money) rallies to save it, then NASA gets to keep the other projects and Hubble.

      The other possibility is that they just decided to dump it and didn't think people would react like this. I guess it depends on whether O'Keefe is really smart or really stupid.

  • Eh... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tirinal ( 667204 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @04:13AM (#8619557)
    I honestly don't understand this American concern for human life in such insular situations. Instead of asking for volunteers to rescue the Hubble, NASA has to spend some inordinate amount of money to reduce the risk factor by an impressive tally of 0.01%. There is no shortage of people who would be willing to risk their lives for the advancement of scientific discovery and human knowledge as a whole, yet apparently their passion to actually do something is nothing but vestigial barbaric brovado. Deaths that transpire under mundane circumstances (car accidents, drug-addiction deaths, gang shootings) are shrugged off as just a "fact of life," whereas sacrifices made for the selfless pursuit of nobility are deemed unnecessary and wasteful. Its absurd. There are people in the world who would end their lives forty years before their time in return for the chance to look out into the inky void and see a lone blue-green planet from a vantage point that few others have even dreamed of scaling, yet they are held back because of the terrible national tragedy that might occur if a nameless, faceless human were to die contently in one location rather than despairingly in another.

    I dunno. I suppose I'm still bitter about the whole Columbia thing. Millions of people who a week ago didn't know of either the mission or the astronouts on the flight suddenly took it upon themselves to be morally outraged. The astronouts became greater heroes in death rather than life, and even then only to the masses who two months down the line wouldn't be able to remember a single, solitary name.
    • The technology for delivering people into space cheaply and safely has to be developed sooner or later. (that's right, currently, we don't have either) Don't kid yourself into thinking that space travel for the masses is only hindered by the astronomical cost.
  • by davmoo ( 63521 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @04:35AM (#8619598)
    Even knowing the risks, I'd gladly go myself on a mission to service Hubble. And even if I were told up front that it was a one-way mission, I'd still go. I can think of many worse ways to give up one's life.
  • OK, so NASA can't save Hubble for less than a billion, I'll bet there are companies out there who can.

  • As long as they want it, either pay for it, or let someone else pay for it, and move the project to another state. Johns Hopkins has been so incredibly skillful at mismanaging the HST program, they need to move on to something new.

    Let California or Texas run it. Some state with skill. Some non-welfare state.

  • by mr_walrus ( 410770 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @05:14AM (#8619735)
    the excuse is that if the shuttle is damaged, it wouldnt
    be able to get to the ISS which is in an entirely different orbit?
    presumably a fuel issue?

    so they want to waste money researching and perhaps building
    an untested robotic system, and then *launch that*.

    couldn't they devise a method for using a soyuz to propel
    a shuttle to the ISS. then launch at same time (or have ready
    to launch) a soyuz? (or if the soyuz has the room, simply
    take the shuttle astronuats home directly.)

    surely paying the russians for a soyuz launch is cheaper
    than a robotic development program that probably wont
    do as well as human repairmen? and infusing money into
    the russian space program may not be such a bad idea anyway.

    oh wait, cant have other countries helping, that would be
    just plain un-american. much less embarassing to abandon
    useful technology.

    oh well.

    • by Tokerat ( 150341 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @08:51AM (#8620194) Journal

      No, it's not really that possible or easy. It would take a lot of energy to change orbits that radically. Things don't go around the Earth at the same height (and I'm not talking a few hundred feet, either) the same direction (angle), and for that matter, the same speed. Hell, some orbits are highly eliptical and some are circular. To match an orbit with an object you pretty much have to launch into that orbit. Slight corrections can be made in-flight, like moving up close to it, but this also pushes you to a higher altitude due to your increased speed. Likewise, if you slow down, you tend to fall as well. The Hubble is quite a ways out there IIRC, now imagine the ISS being on the other side of the planet when the crew needs to get there, and you quickly see how this becomes pretty impossible. Unfortunate, but that's physics for ya.

      PS: Gratuitous rant about America becomming more tightwad'd every day has been *BAHLEETED!*
  • Hubble and Skylab (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dafoomie ( 521507 ) <dafoomie@hotm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Saturday March 20, 2004 @07:47AM (#8620046) Homepage
    How long did we wait after Skylab for the ISS?

    How many times was it delayed and scaled back?

    Do you honestly think that this new telescope will actually launch in 2012? It won't even be fully designed by then. The Hubble is not some old, obsolete piece of equipment. It's the best we've ever had, and will still be the best at what it does, even if the Webb telescope goes as planned.

    The Webb telescope only sees infrared. It can't see what the Hubble can and never will. There will be no pictures from the Webb that can show what the human eye can see. The Webb telescope is intended to augment Hubble, not replace it.
  • by N8F8 ( 4562 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @08:39AM (#8620164)
    I keep seeing people banty about the $200mil figure of sunk cost into the cancelled upgrade mission. What is the total cost of an upgrade mission? Lets assume $500 million. On top of that lets assume the cost of losing another space shuttle $1billion plus. Factor in the risk of losing another shuttle along with a requirement for servicing the manned ISS and getting the Hubble replacement project moving and you begin to start seeing things from the eyes of a NASA administrator.

    Maybe the EU could chip in the money and resources instead of launching a redundant GPS system of satellites?

  • by JThaddeus ( 531998 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @08:44AM (#8620171)
    This could be a great opportunity for private industry contractors.

    No one is gonna do this work for free and who says NASA has the money. IMHO,the moon and Mars mission stuff is a shellgame with Hubble a victim. The administration says it wants to do something big but it will cost a lot of money. So, to "save" money, it will do some preliminary research. To fund this research, they cancel other programs. These other programs cost more than the research so they save money now (to pay for Iraq? tax cuts?). And since the research never comes to anything, they save money in the long run.

    Remember, this is the administration that cancelled much of NASA's earth observing work and then turns around and says, "Gee, we can't find any signs of global warming."
    • Well if one group develops the technology to get the robot there, and another group develops the robot, you can rig it with a self destruct and just have it cuddle up inside hubble. Then you tell them you want the money in your numbered bank account or you'll blow it up :)
  • Finally (Score:3, Funny)

    by Illserve ( 56215 ) on Saturday March 20, 2004 @11:00AM (#8620654)
    After decades of war across the galaxy, I'm glad that Astronauts and Robots have joined forces to save mankind.

  • This looks like a job for Space Systems Lab []! In fact, RTSX [] had already been under consideration for the Sept 2004 Hubble servicing mission. I think this would be a great opportunity to give Ranger a spin. With the increased interest in astronaut safety, there's a very real opportunity here for the space telerobotics community. After all, why do a dangerous all-hands spacewalk outside the ISS, as they did recently, when they could send a robot out to do the dirty work, instead?

BLISS is ignorance.