[FPSPACE] Bye bye Hubble
David M Harland
dave.harland at ntlworld.com
Mon Nov 29 05:49:16 EST 2004
NASA is evidently considering spending $2B on attempting a robotic
mission that has only a modest chance of being able to do what a
couple of astronauts would assuredly be able to do during a shuttle
mission at a fraction of the cost. And all because NASA is scared
of taking the risk of sending a shuttle up that isn't in the orbital
plane of the ISS.... Now I ask you, are these people in the right
frame of mind to set off to explore the solar system!??
At 11:41 pm -0500 28/11/04, DwayneDay wrote:
>After reading the FlaToday article, you might want to take a look at
>Dr. Foust's excellent discussion of the risks of a repair mission:
>Nov 27, 7:24 PM
>Expense may sink Hubble mission
>NASA weighs benefits of trip
>BY JOHN KELLY
>CAPE CANAVERAL -- NASA's plan to launch a remote-controlled,
>two-armed android to repair the Hubble Space Telescope may cost
>almost as much as taxpayers paid to build the vaunted observatory in
>the first place.
>- If the cost hits $2 billion, that's three to four times what
>it would cost to send astronauts to do the job as they have four
>times before and as NASA planned before the Columbia disaster.
>- That's almost the whole budget for the follow-on James Webb
>Space Telescope, which some fear will be launched later than planned
>now, in 2011, to defray Hubble servicing bills.
>- Hundreds of millions, or billions, could be spent developing
>robotic technology to pull off the complex mission only to have
>Hubble's dying batteries, failing steering gyroscopes or glitchy
>sensors make the telescope useless before the rescue mission gets
>off the ground.
>Those points are starting to get made quietly as people watch the
>continuing turns in the Hubble debate, which began when NASA
>Administrator Sean O'Keefe said it was too dangerous to send shuttle
>astronauts back to do the repairs. Calling off the mission prompted
>a public and political outcry and made the agency rethink its
>position and investigate robotic options.
>Now, NASA is racing forward with an inspiring but expensive robotic
>mission in a race to beat Hubble's technical demise, which could
>come as early as 2007 without more repairs.
>"There is only a certain number of dollars here," said Duncan Moore,
>an optics expert at the University of Rochester who worked on Hubble
>and is helping develop the Webb telescope.
>"It's not only the repair costs of going up there and servicing it,"
>he said. "It's operating costs after that. If they do it
>robotically, that's going to cost an awful lot of pocket change."
>On the other hand, Moore and others note it's hard to place a price
>tag on the inspirational value of the images Hubble has beamed back
>to Earth or its incredible resume of science findings. Nor can one
>overstate the value of having a ship already in orbit that works --
>"From my point of view, it's a good investment," said Steven
>Beckwith, the director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in
>Baltimore, which operates the telescope for NASA.
>"The agency has expressed a desire to move into an era where they
>use robots extensively in space," said Beckwith, who plans to leave
>his job in September 2005. "They want to develop this technology
>Agency officials speculate that if they can pull off the unmanned
>repair mission, using a Canadian-built "robot hand" that otherwise
>would be used on the International Space Station, they will have
>moved ahead a decade or more in their robot capabilities in space.
>"If they want to advance this technology anyway, why not use
>Hubble?" Beckwith asked.
>Nicknamed "Dextre," the robot would blast off from Cape Canaveral --
>hopefully by 2007 -- and install fresh batteries and gyroscopes as
>well as a pair of $100 million science instruments.
>NASA needs to decide by next year whether the robot, controlled from
>the ground by an astronaut as if he were playing a video game, will
>work. If not, NASA will have to launch a propulsion module that
>would hook itself to Hubble and drive it to a watery end in a remote
>stretch of the Pacific Ocean.
>NASA does not pretend the technology is foolproof.
>If it works, it provides the agency another inspirational victory --
>perhaps as amazing as the astronauts' first flight to repair
>Hubble's flawed mirror in the early 1990s, opening the way to an
>endless stream of science breakthroughs.
>It could mean Hubble gets to fly through at least 2013, another
>decade or so of discovery.
>If it doesn't work, Beckwith argues, NASA will not have wasted money
>because the trials and testing will have advanced the agency's
>capabilities for robots that will go ahead of astronauts to scout
>the moon and Mars or even work side by side with human explorers on
>History of achievements
>None of that takes into account the emotional attachment to Hubble
>that has developed as the craft beamed back fabulous pictures that
>helped, among other things, tell how old the universe is. Some argue
>it is NASA's biggest achievement besides the moon landings.
>That sentimental attachment, and the jobs it supports in districts
>of powerful members of Congress, led to the political firestorm that
>so far has kept the mission alive.
>Indeed, Congress provided NASA an extra $290 million for a Hubble
>mission in the budget deal reached last weekend. And, Congressional
>leaders noted in supporting documents, NASA ought to consider Hubble
>one of its highest priorities after returning the shuttles to flight.
>Beckwith said he would hope some funding for the robotic rescue
>mission -- because of its application to exploration capabilities --
>might come from those accounts instead of money that may otherwise
>be spent on science missions.
>That might quell concerns among some worried that big spending to
>add some years to Hubble's life could spell doom for other planned
>Regardless, some like Moore, just wonder about the value in return.
>"I'm of two minds because Hubble has contributed so much to the
>understanding of our universe, but are we at a point of diminishing
>returns?" he asked. "It's clear from a science standpoint, it could
>continue to contribute, but the question is at what rate.
>"By the time we ditch, it's 16 years old, so now we've got a 16-year
>old instrument -- and really it's older than that because we built
>it almost 10 years before it launched.
>"We have to ask: How much are we going to get out of this baby?"
>(Way back around April or so, when NASA first started discussing a
>robotic mission to rescue Hubble, a journalist I know who writes for
>a prominent foreign science magazine, suggested that the mission
>would never happen. The costs would escalate, the timeframe would
>become too big, and eventually NASA would announce that they could
>not conduct the mission before Hubble died. He also suggested that
>NASA officials actually hoped that Congress would refuse to give
>them the money in the first place.)
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