a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Hubble telescope repair mission in 2008

Posted by Thomas Nephew on November 1st, 2006

Crab Nebula by Hubble (NASA, ESA, J. Hester and A. Loll (ASU))
Hubble mosaic image of Crab Nebula
Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Hester and A. Loll
(Arizona State University)

Greenbelt, Maryland’s Goddard Space Flight Center will be at work with the Hubble through about 2013; NASA has decided to repair the Hubble space telescope after all. The Washington Post’s Marc Kaufman reports:

NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin said yesterday that his 18-month review concluded that the mission could be safely accomplished. His announcement, made at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, home to much of the Hubble workforce, was met with an eruption of joy. […]

Marylanders can also note that the Hubble project has generated an estimated 1000 jobs in the state, and brought expertise to the area that can’t hurt in the future.

The telescope needs work because gyroscopes and batteries are wearing out, but the repair mission was also worrisome because the International Space Station would be out of reach as a safe haven for astronauts if problems develop with the shuttle. The plan now is to have a second shuttle ready for launch in case it’s needed to rescue the repair crew.

This kind of mission has always been part of the plan for Hubble:

The true beauty of Hubble lies in its ability to be serviced and improved as technology advances. From the outset, Hubble was designed to be visited and upgraded over the years by NASA astronauts. There have been four servicing missions so far — designated SM1, SM2, SM3A and SM3B. The new mission is designated SM4.

With each servicing mission, Hubble’s overall performance has been greatly enhanced. The observatory today is tremendously more powerful than when it launched in 1990, and after the next mission, Hubble will be at its peak, performing anywhere from 10 to 100 times better in various areas.

Thus, this seems like a very good use for the space shuttle — earth orbit missions furthering exploratory science that can’t be done any other way.

Meanwhile, a number of new space telescopes are planned for the near future, including ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory (2008) and NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (2013); both are planned to inhabit the Sun-Earth L2 point, a gravitationally stable place to “park” a satellite and shield it from the Sun. At about 1.5 million km these will be about 4 times further away than the moon, so I’m guessing these space telescopes will be beyond the reach of manned repair/upgrade missions for the foreseeable future.

3 Responses to “Hubble telescope repair mission in 2008”

  1. anonymousgf Says:

    Love the graphic!!!

  2. RobertNAtl Says:

    Early results from New Jersey show Menendez leading Kean, 63% to 59%. 🙂

  3. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Graphic by Oliver Willis, a while book. Great news about Menendez. Off to watch returns.
    Later: “A while book”! I guess I was pretty tired, but I don’t know how that happened. I feel like I’ve walked all over this district by now. I know there are people who’ve done more of that than I have — but not many more.

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