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Space NASA Science

Upgraded Hubble To Be 90 Times As Powerful 194

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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:36AM (#21965370)

    and 60% more capable than it was after its flawed optics were repaired in 1993.
    Article says compared to the ACS of the *third* servicing mission, which if you know your stuff, was in March 2002.
  • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:41AM (#21965400)
    When the new director took over one of his first acts was to reinstate the Hubble upgrade. Really it's one of the most cost effective missions that NASA can do from a science per dollar perspective and one of the few ones that needs the shuttle before it's decommissioned.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:46AM (#21965414)
    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?

    Agreed. The money for Hubble would have been much better spent bailing out failing mortgage lenders and paying iraqi insurgents a daily wage to be non-violent. []
  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:50AM (#21965446) Homepage
    Most people think the magnification of a telescope is the most important number, whereas astronomers are typically more interested in the light-gathering power, as measured by the aperture. What's really being increased by a factor of 90 is neither the magnification nor the sensitivity, it's apparently the product of the sensitivity and the area of the field of view. The argument seems to be that this is an important figure of merit if you're doing a survey of faint objects, such as very distant galaxies.
  • by Karthikkito ( 970850 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @01:59AM (#21965490)
    You've been modded flamebait by someone, but it's a legitimate question that many people have when looking at instruments designed for pure science and discovery. There are quite a few really good arguments about why the Hubble should be around which are based on the science mission, but I'll give you an example of positive spinoffs that affect our daily lives. Google will give you many more.


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

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

    Anyone know the true cost of a non-surgical biopsy today?
  • by CraigParticle ( 523952 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @02:20AM (#21965586) Homepage
    The summary is a bit misleading about the 60%.

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

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

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

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

  • Re:Yes, but... (Score:2, Informative)

    by hylander_sb ( 181045 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @02:30AM (#21965630)
    It does have a 486 on board so if you can get the Flight Software guys to add it in, it could.
  • by Strider- ( 39683 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @02:36AM (#21965654)
    Just prior to the "Return To Flight" mission after the Columbia mission, I had the opportunity to talk to two retired shuttle astronauts, one of whom had been involved in the first Hubble servicing mission. I asked them whether given the opportunity, they'd be willing to fly another mission to the Hubble even without the post-Columbia modifications. To a man, they both said "Absolutely, In a heartbeat." In their eyes, the Hubble was one of the few truly useful missions performed by the space shuttle.
  • Re:Awesome! (Score:5, Informative)

    by themacks ( 1197889 ) <> on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @03:21AM (#21965820) Homepage
    You may appreciate this then: []

    From the site:

    Taking color pictures with the Hubble Space Telescope is much more complex than taking color pictures with a traditional camera. For one thing, Hubble doesn't use color film -- in fact, it doesn't use film at all. Rather, its cameras record light from the universe with special electronic detectors. These detectors produce images of the cosmos not in color, but in shades of black and white.

    Finished color images are actually combinations of two or more black-and-white exposures to which color has been added during image processing.

    The colors in Hubble images, which are assigned for various reasons, aren't always what we'd see if we were able to visit the imaged objects in a spacecraft. We often use color as a tool, whether it is to enhance an object's detail or to visualize what ordinarily could never be seen by the human eye
  • by rucs_hack ( 784150 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @03:44AM (#21965920)
    I think you'll find that NASA, and all its associated costs, (aside from the flying turkey that is the ISS), take up less than 0.02% of the total US budget. It might be smaller than that, this is from memory, I can't re-find the source, which was a newspaper.

    Its a tiny, tiny amount though. The problem is that the space program has always been blown by the political winds. People remember that once, long ago, it did indeed consume vast amounts of cash, and they assume this continues today. NASA then and NASA now are somewhat different however. Back then they were expanding the frontiers of mankind into space, now they spend their time trying to cope with a lowest bidder built shuttle that, far from being a rapid turnaround cheap delivery system, has to be completely rebuilt each time it lands, and has no chance of *ever* matching the stated aims of the project. That it is more expensive to use than the 'old fashioned' rockets it was supposed to replace is just a joke.

    Oh yes, and the ISS is at its current altitude not because NASA wanted it so low, but because they wanted to use the shuttle to service it. So now the ISS is in such a low orbit its subject to drag from the atmosphere and has to be boosted back into orbit periodically. This low orbit reduces the useful science that can be done on board considerably.
  • by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:46AM (#21966394)

    What could we do with an extra $350 million?

    We could finance about 7 hours of the war in Iraq?

  • Re:The REAL Question (Score:3, Informative)

    by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @05:53AM (#21966416)

    Why yes, but, the real question is... will it blend?

    2007 just called, they want their viral marketing Internet meme back.

  • by l1m3house ( 1128815 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @07:38AM (#21966762)
    interesting : from [] i get $500m. does that seem right? so how much do folk think a new hubble would cost to design, build, launch?
  • by ragefan ( 267937 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @09:16AM (#21967206)

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

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

  • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @09:32AM (#21967334)
    Not really, even the most pessimistic calculations put the cost of a manned mission at well under $2B whereas the most optimistic predictions for the cost of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) put it at $4.5B with typical overruns that puts it closer to $6B and it's not even planned to launch until 2013.
  • Re:Awesome! (Score:3, Informative)

    by blincoln ( 592401 ) on Wednesday January 09, 2008 @12:23PM (#21969694) Homepage Journal
    True, but how about some good old black&white then when the original color isn't know?

    Then you'd have to look at three times as many pictures to get the same amount of information, and none of them would be as pleasing to the human eye.
    The convention that NASA seems to use is that they map the lowest-frequency channel to red, the middle to green, and the highest to blue. That's about as consistent as you can get when dealing with multispectral imagery.
    If you really want black and white, just use the GIMP or Photoshop to extract one of the colour channels and save it as a greyscale image.

"It ain't over until it's over." -- Casey Stengel