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NASA To Determine Hubble's Fate 192

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the you-can-store-it-on-my-lawn dept.
clickclickdrone writes "According to the BBC NASA is debating whether or not to send astronauts in to space to service the Hubble telescope. Without intervention it is thought to be good for another 24-36months. Given the quality of images and data it has produced since it's launch, it sounds like a no brainer to me but the people who hold the purse strings are rarely predictable when it comes to spending money."
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NASA To Determine Hubble's Fate

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  • Not Only Money (Score:4, Insightful)

    by crymeph0 (682581) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @11:30AM (#16594188)

    it sounds like a no brainer to me but the people who hold the purse strings are rarely predictable when it comes to spending money.

    There's way more than money at stake here. Maybe Hubble is worth the risk to the astronaut's lives, but you can't just ignore that issue.

  • by Zarniwoop (25791) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @11:32AM (#16594244)
    It's not just money. It's risk of a shuttle launch. You may remember we've had a few... issues... recently with that.

  • Re:Not Only Money (Score:3, Insightful)

    by uujjj (752925) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @11:35AM (#16594284)
    This is an important point. The real question is not whether the mission is too risky but whether a few more years of Hubble is worth $1B+.
  • Re:Auction Hubble (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Orange Crush (934731) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @11:35AM (#16594286)
    What other nation or organization has a spacecraft capable of servicing Hubble within 24-36 months? Bear in mind, Hubble was designed to be serviced by the shuttle. Everyone else is pretty much using capsules exclusively, which aren't nearly as EVA-friendly nor do they have the necessary robotic arm.
  • Re:Not Only Money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dslbrian (318993) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @11:38AM (#16594326)

    There's way more than money at stake here. Maybe Hubble is worth the risk to the astronaut's lives, but you can't just ignore that issue.

    Thats the core of the debate I'm sure, but its a ridiculous point. Space travel is always a risk to an astronaut. If astronauts have a problem with the risks involved then they should get a different job. I'm sure there is a whole line of would be astronauts ready to take their place. Its was a risk when they first put the Hubble in place, and when they serviced it the first time. The risk is unchanged since then, in fact it should be lower since they now have ideas of what problems they may encounter.

  • by mmell (832646) <mmell@hotmail.com> on Thursday October 26, 2006 @11:38AM (#16594336)
    wants to relive the heady days of the space race and the Apollo program - President Dubya is tired of this "Science for the sake of knowledge" stuff and wants to put men on the Moon and Mars.

    Besides, our current president is (seemingly) not quite sharp enought to get most of what science discovers using the HST. He'd rather have "feet on the ground" as it were, telling him things like "We've landed and claimed Mars in the name of the USA" rather than "We've made a startling discovery regarding the dynamics of planetary formation within stellar nurseries".

    That said, maybe it is time we went back to the true promise of space exploration - getting mankind out into the Galaxy. There is a certain attraction to the notion of manned space exploration versus robotic/remote methods. Certainly a kind of heroic appeal to the act itself; and all of our robotic/remote exploration was and is intended to ultimately pave the way for manned exploration anyhow. Perhaps we know enough now to take those first tenative steps into space.

    Like most coins, this one appears to have two sides.

  • The debate (Score:4, Insightful)

    by styryx (952942) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @11:40AM (#16594354)
    Is the cost of building and launching a new and better satellite going to much more expensive than training astronauts, sending them to hubble to fix it and bringing them back down again?

    Perhaps they could take the space elevator...:b
  • Re:Not Only Money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrchaotica (681592) * on Thursday October 26, 2006 @11:42AM (#16594392)
    Maybe Hubble is worth the risk to the astronaut's lives, but you can't just ignore that issue.

    You're kidding, right? Anyone who manages to become an astronaut knows full well about the risks, and chose it anyway. If we were having to conscript people to go fix Hubble it would be one thing, but since the line of people who would volunteer to do it would stretch all the way from the launchpad to the vehicle assembly building, I say we let them do it!

    <flamebait>Besides, it's not any riskier than being a soldier in Iraq...</flamebait>

  • by Hijacked Public (999535) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @11:55AM (#16594612)
    President Bush knows, or at least his handlers know, that US space exploration needs the support of the public. While a great many things can be hidden away in a budget as vast as the US Federal government's there is considerable political danger in diverting money to something unpopular.


    Consider that while the push to put a human on the moon was mostly a marketing campaign the end result was that the public was happy to see large sums of their money spent on it. The shuttle program had similar hype but it has faded away, both from explosions and from the fact that people are bored with seeing the same thing. The Mars rovers generated some excitement as well but it was short lived.

    So the administration may well be trying to generate the same kind of public support for space exploration that it had in the Apollo era. Quite often, if you let the marketing people do their thing, the end result is a gain in resources that will eventually fund more important work. Like it or don't, "We've landed and claimed Mars in the name of the USA" will result in a lot more cheering and bumper ribbons and T shirt sales than "We've made a startling discovery regarding the dynamics of planetary formation within stellar nurseries".

  • by SpinyNorman (33776) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @11:56AM (#16594626)
    I can't imagine NASA doing it for loss of face, but since a Soyuz launch is $5m vs $50M for the shuttle (which is anyway overbooked for the short remainder of it's lifetime), couldn't NASA just pay the Ruskies to take their Hubble repairman up for a day trip?

  • by AIXadmin (10544) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @11:57AM (#16594656) Homepage
    I love posts like this. I am so glad the poster had all the information NASA officials have in front of them. Plus a distinguished panel of experts to advise them. One minute we say NASA is great for having the foresight to put Hubble up their. Then we rag on them when they think the money could get more bang for the buck somewhere else.
  • by wass (72082) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @12:14PM (#16594966)
    If all you need to do is pop in a faster CPU and swap out a busted fan, with existing technology that's built and debugged, why not upgrade the 386? Especially since buying a new computer (in this stupid analogy anyway) will take at least a decade or more before it's built, debugged, and working. And besides, the current Hubble successor (JWST) is near IR and loses the visible. And ground-based telescopes don't provide the same quality of spectra that space-based telescopes can, nor can they provide as quiet long-time (many-orbit) acquisitions.


    No one is saying not to develop new instruemnts (ie, JWST is in progress, but also Chandra and SIRTF have been launched recently and others are also on the drawing board), but Hubble is responsible for HUGE amounts of scientific research, all of which will all be brought to an abrupt halt if funding is cut off.

  • Re:Not Only Money (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @12:37PM (#16595380) Homepage
    I'm not against being sentimental either, but if the money doesn't exist to maintain two space observatories, I know I'd choose to get an all new one.

    That really isn't the choice. There isn't a replacement waiting in the wings that we can choose to launch instead. According to the WP article on HST [wikipedia.org], there may be a newer telescope that would be ready to launch in 2010, but that project is currently unfunded and thus that launch date should be pushed back by the time it would take to get funding. The JWST won't be ready until after 2010, and isn't exactly a replacement for Hubble since it operates at different wavelengths.

    Plus, budgets just don't work that way. There is no service Hubble/build replacement binary choice. This year, we decide on an HST service mission. Next year, they may talk about funding a replacement. These budgets aren't equivalent, either. An HST service mission would be much cheaper than the design of a replacement and it's launch mission. If we fund HST this year, and in five years we fund a replacement, we'd have two amazing space observatories.

    It isn't about being sentimental. The HST is an incredible piece of equipment, we won't have a new space observatory that could replace it, and with a single servicing mission we could get another ten to fifteen years of scientific discovery from it. Without that servicing mission, we are going to be without any space telescope at all for at least three years, but more likely much more.

    It's not that expensive. It's a fantastic piece of equipment, even if better technology exists. We would be missing out on a huge amount of science if we let it just fall because we're afraid or to cheap to launch. if we're too cheap to fix Hubble, we're too cheap to replace it, and then we're really losing out.

    Fix Hubble. It makes sense.
  • Re:Not Only Money (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @01:37PM (#16596590) Homepage
    A lot of the "save Hubble" defense seems to be more sentimental than practical. I'm not saying it should be tossed in the bin just because it's old, but it IS old, and technology has advanced tremendously since it was put into orbit.

    I think it would be a shame to have no functioning space-based telescope.

    If they don't fix it, it will be a whole lot of years before (or, indeed, if) they get around to putting up a replacement. I can envision them not repairing Hubble, and then ultimately not putting up a replacement. In which case, all of the science they are currently getting from it, dries up and ceases to be.

    That would suck.

    Cheers
  • Re:Not Only Money (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 26, 2006 @04:27PM (#16599926)

    There's way more than money at stake here. Maybe Hubble is worth the risk to the astronaut's lives, but you can't just ignore that issue.

    There are lives at stake getting crude oil from the bottom of the North Sea, there are lives at stake getting crab legs to the dinner table, there are lives at stake getting diamonds for jewlery.

    I guess losing lives to repair the Hubble will be all over the news, while the deaths that occur for things we use almost every day are not reported as news.

  • by macserv (701681) on Thursday October 26, 2006 @11:49PM (#16604500)
    I usually refrain, but this post was damned near unreadable. Punctuation and capitalization are important.

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