Hubble Review Panel Urges Additional Servicing Mission

An advisory panel appointed by NASA to review the plans for the Hubble Space Telescope recommends at least one, and preferrably two, space shuttle service missions to the popular orbiting observatory.

No chance in hell.

Not that I disagree with the request to extend the Hubble’s life. I’m just skeptical of the space shuttle and NASA’s ability to keep all the fruit in the air as it juggles a large number of lemons. Maybe if the Mars rovers are spectacularly successful and the space shuttle returns to operations without a hitch, NASA can funnel some dollars in Hubble’s direction. But I’m not holding my breath.

The original plan called for a service mission by the space shuttle to Hubble next year, and then a final shuttle mission at the end of the decade to return the Hubble to earth. I guess they were hoping to hang it in the Smithsonian or something. Very cool, but not likely. The retreival mission was already under fire, from what I can gather, when the Columbia was destroyed earlier this year. Now the service mission has been pushed back and is in danger of being cancelled comletely. As I posted earlier, I don’t think just ignoring the Hubble is an option, since an uncontrolled re-entry would run the risk of big heavy things falling on people. Either a space shuttle has to go up there again and attach a retro rocket pack, or we have to devise a way to do it by remote control.

The Hubble is going to be replaced by the James Webb Space Telescope in 2011. As far as I’m concerned, the Hubble needs to remain fully operational until the JWST is indeed up and running. I can just see NASA splashing the Hubble, then some amazing, unexpected astronomical event ocurring before the JWST is launched. Remember that comet that hit Jupiter? It was one of the big astronomical events ever witnessed by humans. We had less than fourteen months notice. (The comet was discovered in March 1993, but the July 1994 impact wasn’t predicted until two months later.) We don’t want to miss something like that because of no eyes in the sky or because of delays in the JWST.

And the only reason I think that there is a chance in hell that the JWST will launch in 2011 as scheduled is that it’s not going up in a space shuttle. It’s going to launch aboard a European Airane V. Pathetic.