SpaceDaily has a good story on the Hubble. It seems that the decision to cancel service flights to the Hubble Space Telescope is not completely final. There has been a fair amount of outcry over the decision, and NASA is still considering options.
Two of Hubble’s six gyroscopes have already failed. It needs three to operate. NASA estimates only a 30% chance that three gyros will still be functioning in July, 2006. A service mission was also supposed to replace batteries and upgrade the IR camera to one that is ten times more powerful than the current instrument.
Noted in the story is something that doesn’t get a lot of attention:
Hubble’s loss would leave the future of space-based, visible light astronomy unfulfilled for many years. The James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2010, operates in the near-infrared spectrum.
I feel that this is a key reason to keep the Hubble operational. No new visible-light space telescope is beyond the drawing board stage. We don’t want to miss something.
That being said, I understand why NASA might have trouble keeping the Hubble alive. If we had the capability, I’d suggest launching a totally new Hubble instead of servicing the old one. But that isn’t an option.
And I still think the idea of privatizing the Hubble operations might be worth looking into.