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The end of Hubble?

By FreeNSK in Science
Mon Jan 24, 2005 at 02:19:19 AM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) will probably die before 2010 due to insufficient financial resources to service it. There is no official announcement by NASA yet, but it is expected for 7 February 2005 during the presentation of the 2006 budget. (Sources: BBC, Space.com).

The fourth and final servicing mission was scheduled to take place in 2006. However, the White House eliminated the necessary funding (over US$1 billion) and as a result several components of Hubble, most probably its batteries, are expected to stop operating in the next 2-4 years, while the whole telescope will be directed towards the Earth oceans soon after. "It will be a great loss for science", American astronomer Holland C. Ford said. (Source: Space.com).

Hubble was deployed 600km above the Earth on 25 April 1990 by the space shuttle Discovery during the STS-31 mission. The orbiting telescope cost US$1.5 billion and every year it costs an additional US$230-250 million to keep it in operation, analyse the data it transmits and develop new hardware or software. It is named in honour of Edwin Hubble and is operated by Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) on behalf of NASA. (Sources: NASA, Space.com).

HST was designed to be maintained with servicing missions operated from space shuttles every few years, a conception that saved billions of dollars. On 2 December 1993, the first servicing mission (SM1) replaced the solar arrays, upgraded the HST computer, installed the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR) unit, and made numerous other maintenance tasks. SM1 was operated by the space shuttle Endeavour in its STS-61 flight. The second servicing mission (SM2), operated by Discovery in flight STS-82 on 11 February 1997, installed the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) - which stopped operating on 3 August 2004 due to a power supply failure. The third servicing mission was completed in two phases: SM3A and SM3B. During the first phase, operated by spache shuttle Discovery in flight STS-103 on 19 December 1999, the astronauts repaired two Rate Sensor Units (RSU) which contain gyroscopes, installed a new computer (20 times faster compared to the old one) and a new space-to-ground data transmitter (replacing HST's original transmitter which had failed in 1998) before re-placing HST in orbit on Christmas Day. In the second phase, operated by space shuttle Columbia in flight STS-109 on 1 March 2002, the solar arrays were replaced again and two instruments were installed: The NICMOS Cooling System (NCS) and the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). SM3B was the last servicing mission, but a fourth mission is necessary if we want to keep Hubble operational. (Source: NASA).

Will Hubble have the fate of Mir?

This article is (C) Copyright 2005 by Nikolaos S. Karastathis and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 License. It can be republished and used under the same license as long as this copyright notice and the link to its original location remain intact.


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Is $1 billion too much to save Hubble?
o Yes 30%
o No 69%

Votes: 79
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Hubble Space Telescope (HST)
o Space.com
o White House
o US$
o Holland C. Ford
o Space.com [2]
o Discovery
o STS-31
o Edwin Hubble
o Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)
o NASA [2]
o first servicing mission (SM1)
o Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR)
o Endeavour
o STS-61
o second servicing mission (SM2)
o STS-82
o Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS)
o Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS)
o SM3A
o SM3B
o first phase
o STS-103
o Rate Sensor Units (RSU)
o gyroscopes
o Christmas Day
o second phase
o Columbia
o STS-109
o NICMOS Cooling System (NCS)
o Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS)
o Mir
o Nikolaos S. Karastathis
o Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 License
o original location
o Also by FreeNSK

Display: Sort:
The end of Hubble? | 61 comments (41 topical, 20 editorial, 0 hidden)
Death of hubble space telescope predicted! (2.00 / 3) (#3)
by ksandstr on Sat Jan 22, 2005 at 02:28:03 PM EST

Film at 11.

-1 Pretension: (2.76 / 17) (#5)
by gr3y on Sat Jan 22, 2005 at 03:05:22 PM EST

Number of lines of text in the copyright notice (3) more than 10 percent of the number of lines of text (26) in the article.

I am a disruptive technology.

I see two lines nt (none / 0) (#47)
by Insoc on Tue Jan 25, 2005 at 03:19:14 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Of course you do. (none / 0) (#49)
by gr3y on Wed Jan 26, 2005 at 12:35:35 AM EST

The author of this submission altered its layout, as is his (her) right, after I posted my comment that I would not vote his (her) otherwise well-referenced submission up because the number of lines of text in the copyright notice (3) was more than 10 percent of the number of lines of text (26) in the article at the time it was submitted.


There are limits.

I am a disruptive technology.
[ Parent ]

omg you could said the hubble's burst (2.40 / 15) (#16)
by noogie on Sat Jan 22, 2005 at 08:32:57 PM EST


lolz (1.66 / 3) (#17)
by Dr Funkenstein on Sat Jan 22, 2005 at 08:36:25 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Software that wasn't Free killed Hubble (1.09 / 22) (#20)
by GNU RMS on Sun Jan 23, 2005 at 12:24:33 AM EST

Clearly software that wasn't free killed Hubble.  This is what happens when non-free software is used.  Money went to M$FT and other commerical software companies instead of providing the public good of repairing hubble.  If Hubble had used Free software, there would be enough money to repair Hubble and call in GNU/Hubble.

It's GNU/Linux not Linux.
Hubba-Hubble (2.90 / 10) (#22)
by Peahippo on Sun Jan 23, 2005 at 03:17:03 AM EST

This isn't much of a problem.

Firstly, NASA has an annoying habit of letting everything fall back to Earth eventually and get destroyed in the atmosphere. (Note they did that with the last space shuttle, LOL.) It cannot be a surprise to anyone that Hubble is being left to its fiery fate. My personal theory is that NASA trends itself to sexy new programs; it only logically follows that once something is orbited, it fails to merit much further consideration from the administrators. And the $10K/kg price of lofting something is never much of a concern once NASA decides to invoke "end of life" or some other such rubbish.

Secondly, we have about 5 years to go before a deorbit is necessary. Sometime until then, the US Congress may fund it.

Thirdly, America's manned space endeavors decay apace, as we can only expect from such a dipshit civilization. Hence, it is reasonable to assume some other space-faring nation will take over space movements and may take possession of the Hubble.

Fourthly, money will always be found for war (Hubble's "rescue" mission could be paid for many times over from just ONE Halliburton overcharge, or 3 days of the Iraq war) and corporate welfare. Everything else will just have to suck shit. Since the price of natural gas around here is at an all-time record high, I doubt Middle America cares.

If Bush hadnt cut taxes (none / 0) (#31)
by Gruntathon on Mon Jan 24, 2005 at 05:10:14 AM EST

There would be more than enough money lying around to fund a Hubble fix.
If they hadn't been such quality beasts (despite being so young) it would have been a nightmare - good self-starting, capable hands are your finest friend. -- Anonymous CEO
[ Parent ]
Does it hurt? (1.00 / 33) (#24)
by bg on Sun Jan 23, 2005 at 05:53:39 AM EST

Being that gay?

- In heaven, all the interesting people are missing.
by Tex Bigballs on Sun Jan 23, 2005 at 02:46:45 PM EST


haha! (2.00 / 3) (#28)
by the ghost of rmg on Sun Jan 23, 2005 at 07:11:40 PM EST

classic material. obviously you've been studying (but not very hard).

whole thread.

rmg: comments better than yours.
[ Parent ]

wow kos must have a search that actually works (1.50 / 4) (#29)
by Tex Bigballs on Sun Jan 23, 2005 at 09:49:25 PM EST

whoda thunk it

[ Parent ]
Not like Mir (none / 1) (#30)
by jeroen94704 on Mon Jan 24, 2005 at 04:41:30 AM EST

Not unless some serious money is spent on equipping Hubble with a propulsion unit anyway. Currently, Hubble has no capability to raise or lower its orbit, let alone de-orbit itself. In the past, the Shuttle was used to raise Hubble's orbit during servicing missions. Hubble will only de-orbit naturally, which is anything but controlled, and could impact pretty much anywhere, although this won't happen in the very near future. I suspect NASA won't let it get that far though, and will have to find a way to either raise Hubble to a stable parking orbit, or let it come down in a controlled fashion.

more like SkyLab (nt) (none / 0) (#32)
by the sixth replicant on Mon Jan 24, 2005 at 08:20:12 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Let's start an initiative to save Hubble (none / 0) (#33)
by FreeNSK on Mon Jan 24, 2005 at 08:27:09 AM EST

I propose to start an initiative to increase public awareness about Hubble and help the people and the US Government understand why Hubble is so important and so unique. We can write a letter and let Internet users sign it; then we can send the letter to those responsible in US Government. I can provide webhosting for such a project and help with the software, etc. I think it could be better for an American citizen to undertake and organise the project. If you like this idea, read my blog post and send me an email immediatelly to start organising it (my email can be found in my blog or in my homepage at Wikinerds.org).

=== NSK ===

Mission unlikely before 2007 (3.00 / 2) (#34)
by Jack Crabb on Mon Jan 24, 2005 at 08:59:06 AM EST

I scanned this report: Assessment of Options for Extending the Life of the Hubble Space Telescope:  Final Report  (2005) (just out), and it looks like the possible shuttle mission to repair the HST could be possible between Aug 2006 and Aug 2007. (risk timeline) The fiscal year ends on Sept 30th and the new years budget begins Oct 1st. The fact that there is no money in next year's budget for HST repair mission, does not by itself mean the end of HST. The budget's impact seems low.

NASA has only 2 shuttle flight scheduled over the next year, one for each shuttle and referred to as "return to flight" missions in May and August. The report also shows that a robotic mission option would be unlikely to be ready before the batteries start die. Once all the batteries are dead the HST will no longer be repairable due to damage caused by freezing. A robotic mission's chance of successfully accomplishing a repair mission was considered to be too low.

One important consideration for a HST mission is that NASA has a current policy that any shuttle mission will have to have the option of docking at the ISS in case of an emergency. Because the HST is in a very different orbit than the ISS, docking is possible but it's a long way to go. The report linked above has rated the risk acceptable but that may not be the last word on the subject. But the policy may be lifted once the shuttles are flying reliably again.

Because of the orbits... (none / 0) (#53)
by ckaminski on Fri Jan 28, 2005 at 07:28:03 PM EST

A space shuttle visiting Hubble absolutely, no way in Hell, cannot dock with the ISS.  Period.  

There's not enough fuel on the shuttle, on orbit, to make it happen.

[ Parent ]

It's not a good enough telescope (1.00 / 2) (#35)
by Yet Another Troll on Mon Jan 24, 2005 at 09:12:01 AM EST

Okay, we have some petty pictures of distant galaxies.  But why do we care?  None of this is what the public wants to see.  We know that there are other galaxies.  We've seen some.  There's nothing particularly remarkable about the new ones.  

What we want to look for is alien planets.  We want a close up of the planets that are orbitting other stars.  Unless hubble can show us those why should we keep it?

I guess it depends (none / 0) (#36)
by davidduncanscott on Mon Jan 24, 2005 at 02:48:28 PM EST

on what you mean by "closeup".

[ Parent ]
This would be a good start (none / 0) (#37)
by Yet Another Troll on Mon Jan 24, 2005 at 04:52:30 PM EST


I mean come on.  You can't see a thing They don't even know whether it's orbitting or floating behind it somewhere.

[ Parent ]

re: This would be a good start (none / 1) (#40)
by interstel on Tue Jan 25, 2005 at 01:11:49 AM EST

That level of interstellar image data is for most intents and purposes improbable. In order to render an optical image of even a Jovian level planet at that resolution at even a distance 10 lightyears would require an interferometer based system with probably 50+ elements who diameter would have to exceed 1,000 miles.


[ Parent ]
I'm willing to compromise (none / 0) (#42)
by Yet Another Troll on Tue Jan 25, 2005 at 05:20:10 AM EST

At least something that's clealry a planet at a distance of 20 lightyears.  If we can't get that from an interositer, then spend the money on something that we can get tangible results from.  

[ Parent ]
closeup (2.50 / 2) (#39)
by speek on Mon Jan 24, 2005 at 06:26:27 PM EST

Closeup would mean being able to see down alieness blouses.

al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

re: It's not a good enough telescope (none / 1) (#41)
by interstel on Tue Jan 25, 2005 at 01:16:33 AM EST

The reason you keep doing original research that appears to have no immediate application is that eventually it does. The $60 billion spent on Apollo paid back 100 times over in spin off technologies.

Hubble research allows astronomers to visually see what can be predicted from macro physics in a wide variety of areas.


[ Parent ]
There's only so much potential return (none / 1) (#43)
by Yet Another Troll on Tue Jan 25, 2005 at 05:27:07 AM EST

I'd rather see the money spent on a manned Mars mission.  Hubble certainly gave us some great advances in all sorts of area, especially image processing.  But ther more we spend, the less bang we get for our buck.

[ Parent ]
Hubble = $1 bn; Iraq War = $80 bn. (none / 0) (#44)
by FreeNSK on Tue Jan 25, 2005 at 06:51:38 AM EST

BBC reports that Mr. Bush will ask the Congress for US$ 80 billion to be used for the Iraq War. A mission to save Hubble would cost not much more than $1 billion. USA has spent more than $200 billion to fight terrorism after 11 September 2001 and if the additional funds are approved, the total war-on-terror cost would climb to more than $ 280 billion. Obviously, given these numbers, $1 billion to save Hubble isn't so much.

=== NSK ===

Huh? (none / 1) (#51)
by ghjm on Thu Jan 27, 2005 at 08:55:20 AM EST

How are these things comparable? They're completely different in scale, outcome, strategic implications, etc, etc...

I might as well say: I made a mortgage payment of $1,500 last month. My friend offered to sell me a ham sandwich for $250. My house cost more than $250,000 and I am considering renovations that would cost an additional $40,000, bringing the total to nearly $300,000. Obviously, given these numbers, $250 for a ham sandwich isn't that much.

Not that I'm against funding a servicing mission to Hubble. In fact, I'm strongly in favor of it. But your argument makes no sense, and you do no service to the cause by advocating it.


[ Parent ]

Stupid analogy and you insult him? (none / 1) (#57)
by QuantumG on Sun Jan 30, 2005 at 11:50:59 PM EST

They are comparable because they are both two different ways of spending tax payer dollars. You making a really stupid analogy and then declaring yourself the winner doesn't help in that comparison. The two are even more comparable in that they both are embarked upon out of the desire to improve our standards of living.

Science has proven itself capable of improving our standards of living, and so has war. How the hubble telescope is going to do this is a stretch, but here goes: the hope is that astronomers will learn more about the universe, and as a result further develop the theories of physics. Through engineering this gives us more control over our environment which allows us to live more technological lives.

What of Iraq? Well the argument goes that by attacking another country the US somehow reduces the chance that they will be attacked. I think there's another argument that has something to do with controlling critical resources in that part of the world. And I think there's another argument that says having more democratic societies results in less chance of worse governmental forms from taking over.

Now that we've clearly established that these two things are very much alike, which one is more deserving of our funding. I'm personally on the side of science and technology, but there's a lot of people who think military operations are more important.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]

Very Large Telescope (none / 0) (#45)
by Democratus on Tue Jan 25, 2005 at 10:45:48 AM EST

As I understand it, the new Very Large Telescope has better resolution and light sensitivity than the Hubble Space Telescope.

I don't see a compelling reason to spend so much money on an obsolete piece of technology.  Let it die.

Am I missing something?

Atmospheric Disturbance (none / 1) (#50)
by weirdling on Wed Jan 26, 2005 at 04:27:19 PM EST

That's what I heard, anyway...
I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
[ Parent ]
Not the case (none / 0) (#52)
by Democratus on Fri Jan 28, 2005 at 10:10:05 AM EST

With the adaptive optics system NAOS (Nasmyth Adaptive Optics System) the VLT offers resolution that is three times higher than that of the Hubble.

It's time to let the old bird die.

[ Parent ]

No, it's not. (none / 0) (#55)
by hmspgh on Sat Jan 29, 2005 at 11:22:14 PM EST

Ground-based telescopes cannot do an 11.3 day exposure like the one that produced the Ultra Deep Field image.

Even if the VLT has double the aperture of the Hubble, there's something very small that can render it all absolutely useless, even with their nifty adaptive optics.

That something would be clouds.
"Aldous Huxley's 1983 has arrived." - Arthur Spada, CT Public Safety Commis.
[ Parent ]
It's not going to be a sea level... (none / 0) (#60)
by lens flare on Sun Feb 13, 2005 at 09:23:41 PM EST

It's meant to be up very high, above where most clouds occur. Ok, so you can get cirrus clouds at 45000ft, but these are rarer.

[ Parent ]
Bum: it's a stinking world because (1.00 / 2) (#46)
by canned soma on Tue Jan 25, 2005 at 01:33:23 PM EST

there's no law and order any more. It's a stinking world because it lets the young get on to the old like you've done. Oh, it's no world for an old man any longer. What kind of a world is it at all? Men on the moon and men spinning around the earth and there's not no attention paid to earthly law and order no more. Oh dear dear land I fought for thee

It might not be so bad... (none / 1) (#48)
by mcgrew on Tue Jan 25, 2005 at 09:11:55 PM EST

From New Scientist:
But Bruce Margon, associate director for science at the Space Telescope Science Institute, the agency that manages Hubble observations, says all hope for the telescope is not lost. "We're not enormously concerned by this - it could be a completely false rumour," he told New Scientist. "But if it is correct, I would claim there's a lot less there than meets the eye."

He says specific projects are often not listed explicitly as line items in the agency's budget. Those projects must simply be carved out of the budget once it is approved by Congress.

Margon adds that $300 million has already been allocated to pursuing a robotic servicing mission in the 2005 budget, and that he would "absolutely know" if the agency had cancelled contracts to develop the mission.

"If they have already decided they are not going to touch Hubble, why aren't they sending stop-work orders to those contractors? That just doesn't seem to be a responsible way to spend $300 million," he says.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie

howto gain knowlegde in general (none / 1) (#54)
by stock on Sat Jan 29, 2005 at 10:28:52 PM EST

Anyone who's a expert in his/her field of expertise should know this. To explore, research or study things one needs a working infrastructure or lab. To get good or excellent results in a easy way, your lab or infrastructure has to be big enough to reach a certain critical mass. The termination of the Hubble telescope is nothing else as the downsizing of your laboratories independent measurement techniques. The termination of Hubble i would describe as NASA laboratories loosing critical mass for obtaining new insight in space exploration.

Bush has announced a Space project to visit Mars with a manned spacecraft. At the time they arrive on Mars, having a telescope like Hubble online can be of invaluable importance.

Issues concerning the Desire of a New World Order

Gonna piss a lot of people off by saying this, but (none / 0) (#56)
by kurtmweber on Sun Jan 30, 2005 at 04:17:11 PM EST

this is a good thing. Sorry, but non-military space exploration is NOT a legitimate function of government. Yes, it will have a detrimental effect on scientific progress, but that's too bad--principle comes before pragmatics.

Kurt Weber
Any field of study can be considered 'complex' when it starts using Hebrew letters for symbols.--me
Why not? (none / 0) (#58)
by aphrael on Tue Feb 01, 2005 at 02:30:10 PM EST

Most of the known world was explored by European governments for non-military purposes, after all.

[ Parent ]
Is/ought fallacy (none / 0) (#59)
by kurtmweber on Tue Feb 01, 2005 at 08:58:55 PM EST

That's a horrible argument. Just because it HAPPENED doesn't justify it having happened in the past or happening in the future.

Kurt Weber
Any field of study can be considered 'complex' when it starts using Hebrew letters for symbols.--me
[ Parent ]
I think it would be great (none / 0) (#61)
by masse on Thu Mar 10, 2005 at 01:31:27 PM EST

if the americans would start to take pride in the space program again. somehow I find it strange that no human has been on the Moon in my lifetime. also, it is a great way to be adventurous and manly without waging war. science and the world would benefit.

-- Be yourself. There are already so many others.

The end of Hubble? | 61 comments (41 topical, 20 editorial, 0 hidden)
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