NASA rethinks abandoning Hubble

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Hubble Space Telescope seen from Shuttle Discovery

In the aftermath of the Columbia space shuttle accident, which cost the lives of seven astronauts, the current chief of NASA Sean O'Keefe had decided further maintenance to the space telescope of Hubble was too dangerous, and that maintenance of the telescope would be dropped, essentially decommissioning the satellite. This caused some concern in the scientific community. A mission to repair the satellite using robots was dismissed as too complicated.

However, in light of space flight being resumed as of May 19th, the decision should be reconsidered, according to the nominee for the next chief of NASA, Griffin.

"We should revisit the earlier decision in light of what we learn after return to flight," Griffin told the Senate Commerce committee Tuesday. He noted when NASA resumes space flight, it will be with the completely-overhauled Shuttle - effectively a new vehicle - which will require new risk-analyses.

The Hubble telescope has some major discoveries on its record, providing the first visual proof for black holes, the big bang theory and establishing for the first time the age of the universe. Hubble's solar cells should provide it with enough power in its current state to maintain orbit until 2007. It was hoped that with servicing, the telescope could be maintained until 2011. Its replacement the James Webb telescope, which will be equipped with infra-red, will not be launched until 2010.