The odds of some sort of life-extension plan for the Hubble Space Telescope seem to be improving according to this story in SpaceDaily. Three primary factors seem to be behind the upswing. 1) The batteries and/or gyros on the HST appear almost certain to fail within the next four years. 2) Now that talk of the HST’s demise has hit the mainstream, folks seem to be waking up to the fact that it’s more or less irreplaceable.
Third, there has been a surprising amount of interest by NASA contractors in a possible robotic servicing mission.
Last Feb. 20, the agency requested ideas and information on the concept of a robotic mission. NASA received 26 responses, from a wide variety of concerns, both public and private.
Even the Johnson Space Center in Houston — a part of NASA itself — is proposing to launch what it calls a “robonaut” — a humanlike machine with arms and fingers that could stand in for astronauts when conventional spacewalks could prove particularly dangerous — into orbit to tackle repairs on and upgrades of the Hubble.
NASA only has thirty days to put out bids for a robotic rescue mission. I think the deadline is self-imposed, so expect it to be broken. In any event, the next couple of months might decide the fate of the one true Space Shuttle success. Keep your fingers crossed.