Debating the Hubble Space Telescope's future.

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Jack Briggs, Nov 18, 2003.

  1. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Before the STS-107 tragedy, NASA's plans called for two more servicing missions to extend the HST's useful life out to the year 2020. After its distinguished career in space was finished, the historic instrument would be loaded into the payload bay of an Orbiter and brought back to Earth for eventual exhibition in the Smithsonian.

    No longer, in the wake of STS-107.

    The debate over the HST's fate is becoming quite spirited. Read about here: Whither the Hubble?
     
  2. Christ Reynolds

    Christ Reynolds Producer

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    does anyone know the size of the hst?

    CJ
     
  3. Lance Nichols

    Lance Nichols Supporting Actor

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    Wow, I had not realized the debate has got so heated so quickly.

    One problem I see with the James Webb, is although it will do good science, being designed to peer deep into the IR, and hence look far into the Universe's past, it will not have as much dramatic impact as Hubble's color/visible light images do (IMHO). NASA has to remember that good looking AND good science are better overall then just good science. That is, the long term science is boosted with the short term wow factor that Hubble keeps churning out.

    I fear that Hubble will never be recovered, but it seems a great shame to write it off after the service it has done. Although I am a big supporter of permanent Manned Space outposts, ISS has been a big boondoggle. NASA should have sunk more funds into craft such as Hubble, or pushed outward (back) to Luna. That way we could have had mutiple Hubble class craft running.
     
  4. Dome Vongvises

    Dome Vongvises Lead Actor

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    If there's a new one being made, I don't exactly see what the problem is, given that there was a time when we didn't have Hubble to begin with.

    I think those scientists can do without their telescope for two or three years. Besides, the news story makes it out to be that maintenance is pretty costly. Given if that were true, wouldn't it make more sense to put something newer up there? One that wasn't so worn out from the ages?
     
  5. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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  6. BrianW

    BrianW Cinematographer

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    One thing to note: The HST's primary mirror, flawed as it is, is still considered to be the largest, most precision-built artifact ever produced by human civilization. Though I don't suggest that lives should be needlessly imperiled to save it, I do think that it should be saved for posterity, if at all possible.
     
  7. CharlesD

    CharlesD Screenwriter

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    Its a shame that it is no longer feasible to return the HST to Earth and hang it in the Air and space Museum. It is as significant as any of the other amazing artifacts in that museum.

    We truly do live in a Golden Age of astronomy thanks to the HST and the other orbital scopes. For me seeing pictures of proto-planetary discs captured by the HST is just mind blowing. We are able to see entire solar systems forming, and that is just one of numerous wondrous sights revealed by Hubble.

    Isn't there a "Next Generation" (visible light) space telescope in the works? They should at least try and keep the HST in service until the new observatory is operational.
     
  8. Shawn Shultzaberger

    Shawn Shultzaberger Supporting Actor

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    If some want the Hubble so bad why not sell it off to a private company. And for any future service the Hubble might need the private company would pay NASA for the maintenance/labor.

    Or is this totally unfeasable?
     
  9. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    To the tune of at least hundreds of millions of dollars, something private enterprise would be loathe to do when it comes to bottom-line benefits. This country has never been fond of spending much money on research.
     
  10. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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  11. Andrew Testa

    Andrew Testa Second Unit

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    The future of HST is pretty complex. It was complex even before Columbia, but now it's even more difficult to try extending its life. While it deserves all the praise it receives, it is getting very old. There are several ground-based telescopes under construction now that will be able to match HST's resolving power. Also, the James Webb observatory will take cosmology far deeper than HST can.

    With its age the number of component failures will increase. The regular service flights kept these in check, but the cost is very high. And now the time available to do them has all but vanished. Severe restrictions are being placed on shuttle flight planning that almost preclude revisiting HST anytime soon. Consider the following:

    Until such time as we have an effective and proven method of surveying and repairing damage to the thermal protection system all flights are going into an orbit that allows docking with ISS. This precludes flights to HST. We do not have such a repair system yet, and I doubt that we'll have one by this time next year when flights are expected to resume. Initial flights are going to be testing the repair scenarios and problems will no doubt need to be addressed. Until this process is complete I don't see any visits to HST.

    The flight rules for resuming flights are still being developed. We already know that available launch opportunities are being severly curtailed by requirements for a daytime launch. There is still discussion ongoing over whether all flights should be limited to an ISS-capable orbit. If a tile repair method can't be found, this will likely be instituted so that the ISS can be used as a safe haven until another flight can bring them back.

    During the grounding of the fleet the component failures on ISS continue to mount. Regardless of how we may feel about the worth of ISS, it has a higher priority than HST. There are many replacement parts that need to get to ISS that can't fit in a Soyuz, so the first few flights will be devoted to catching up with ISS maintenance. This will push back the assembly schedule even farther from return to flight, and many of those pieces are required on orbit ASAP. Any HST visit will have to wait until these are taken care of.

    It's highly likely that HST will succumb to a component failure that renders it uncontrollable during this long delay to a service mission. Once it becomes uncontrollable, a servicing mission is impossible, and reentry will be random; something we want to avoid. The safest course of action is to assess the health of the HST relative to how long it needs to remain controlled. If it's likely to fail before we can service it, perform a controlled reentry while it's still possible to do so. Unfortunately the HST has no thrusters to perform its own deorbit burn. So a controlled reentry has to be done by sending the thruster package to it. If this can't be done during a service flight, it has to be done with a remote system. And contrary to the opinions expressed by someone in the article, this is a practical solution. It would be a technical challenge, but doable.

    And finally, there's no longer any question of returning it for display. While it would be nice to have it, nobody is going to greenlight a flight that has no purpose but to return a museum piece. Not given the restrictions and budget in the forseeable future.

    We'd all like to have it operating for a long time, but at some point it becomes too risky. It's already outlived several other observatories (the Compton GRO was deorbited within the last year), and it successors will soon be ready. But given the fact that we may not be able to get to it anytime soon, and in fact future flight rules may preclude ever visiting it again, and it's deteriorating condition, it's probably best to bring it down while it's still possible.

    Andy
     
  12. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    This is because for many people in the space industry the Hubble was ultimately a disappointment since it never fulfilled its potential due to technical problems. My brother is working on the JWST and will be very happy when Hubble is fully behind him.
     
  13. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Producer
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    Any serious attempt to restart manned exploration to the moon and beyond will require permanent manned space stations. I do not think ISS was or is a boondoggle because it has probably helped engineers work out a lot of the problems with space construction. Manned space exploration to even a planet as close as the moon is going to be non-existent until there is a manned station with manufacturing capabilities.

    As for the Hubble. I cannot see the big deal with wanting to bring it back. It is a tool and a soon to be obsolete one. Other superior tools are going to become available and the HST will cease to matter. Why expend millions of dollars to bring it back and hang it in a museum. There are far more historically valuable space items out there that deserve to be on display. I don't see anyone proposing to spend money to go out and retrieve them.
     
  14. Win Joy Jr

    Win Joy Jr Stunt Coordinator

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    You know, this thing has just struck me like a ton of bricks. I was on duty at GSFC when HST had its first contact via TDRSS. I still have a copy of the first ODM (Orbital Data Messge) somewhere. I just cannot imagine no HST passes on the Space Network.
     
  15. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Another futuristic carrot being waved is the proposed Terrestrial Planet Finder. Now, that would get some copy on the typical evening "news" broadcast.
     

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