Hugh Pickens writes: "When the space shuttle Atlantis lands later today, it will cap off a mission to Hubble and mark the end of the servicing era. The astronauts' fifth overhaul of the Hubble Space Telescope was the last planned mission to repair the telescope, or any satellite for that matter. "This is the last scheduled servicing mission of Hubble with the space shuttle, and what I think it's demonstrated is the extreme utility of having people working in space and accomplishing things that are different than what was expected," said astronaut John Grunsfeld, who has helped fix Hubble on three different missions. In all, there have been 10 space repair missions by shuttle crews, half of them to Hubble, a major source of pride for NASA — most notably in 1993 when astronauts successfully installed an instrument on Hubble to fix a flawed mirror that had been built into the telescope. NASA's replacement spaceship, the Orion Crew Module, will not have the ability to rendezvous with Hubble or other satellites to repair them. "There is no person out there, there is no leadership out there, there is no vision out there to pick up the baton that we're about to hand off and carry it forward," says Hubble project scientist David Leckrone. "And I think that's just a shame to abandon one of the most impressive, refined, sophisticated capabilities that this agency as a whole — human side and robotic side — has achieved.""
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