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NASA Engineers Dispute Hubble Safety Claim

CowboyNeal posted more than 10 years ago | from the forced-obsolescence dept.

Space 412

Zeinfeld writes "According to the administration, the Hubble space telescope is going to be allowed to die in the next three years because the shuttle mission required to save it would be too risky. Meanwhile the public plans say shuttle missions to the space station will resume. Papers leaked to the New York Times say hogwash. The article (free subscription required) reports claims that money and politics, not safety are the reason. The public NASA story is clearly nonsense, and if the science from Hubble does not justify a shuttle mission, then it's time to pull the plug on the space station. I suspect that is exactly what will happen after the November election."

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412 comments

STOP NYTIMES ARTICLES! (-1, Offtopic)

sinucus (85222) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212253)

When are we going to stop publishing NY TIMES articles? I'm tired of having to wait for the hacked google spider link!

Re:STOP NYTIMES ARTICLES! (1)

TheRagingTowel (724266) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212262)

So register to NYTimes... what's the big fuss?

Re:STOP NYTIMES ARTICLES! (0, Offtopic)

Rick the Red (307103) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212353)

I refuse to give personal information to read a newspaper. It doesn't matter that I can give fake information, it's the principle.

And it's not just the NYT -- other newspapers do it, too, and I refuse to register with them as well.

And yes, I don't register at my grocery store, either. I did register at Albertsons, because they explicitly have a box to check that says something along the lines of "I don't want to give you my personal information."

Re:STOP NYTIMES ARTICLES! (2, Insightful)

red floyd (220712) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212422)

So lie about it. The NYT thinks I'm a 70 year old female CEO living in Afghanistan pulling down less than $20K per year.

Re:STOP NYTIMES ARTICLES! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212266)

Use "slashdot_coward" as both username and password.

l/p slashdot_coward/slashdot_coward works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212279)

wow that works, nice tip

doesn't any more, mod down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212528)

right mod grandparent down, some arse changed the pass. thanks arse.

Re:STOP NYTIMES ARTICLES! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212286)

just changed the password

Re:STOP NYTIMES ARTICLES! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212358)

er why?! wtf was the point of posting working info (it did work at first, i checked) and then changing it? or did someone else change it.

Re:STOP NYTIMES ARTICLES! (1, Offtopic)

Rick the Red (307103) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212407)

That's why "public" anonymous accounts don't work. Some asshole always pees in the pool.

Re:STOP NYTIMES ARTICLES! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212321)

nope no longer works
maybe someone changed a password?

Re:STOP NYTIMES ARTICLES! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212473)

I tried and it said:

Couldn't find your Member ID or Password. Please re-enter them.

Re:STOP NYTIMES ARTICLES! (1)

sinucus (85222) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212291)

It's all about the advertising. I'm tired of it. Slashdot does JUST FINE without knowing who I am. So why can't NY TIMES figure out how to advertise to people without collecting 4,000,000 pieces of data?

Re:STOP NYTIMES ARTICLES! (3, Informative)

tsvk (624784) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212354)

When are we going to stop publishing NY TIMES articles? I'm tired of having to wait for the hacked google spider link!

So you are prepared to exclude the output of a major newspaper altogether? Nothing the New York Times writes is worth reporting on Slashdot? Geez.

And besides, there is no need to wait for the "hacked Google spider link" to be posted. Search Goolge [google.com] for yourself.

Re:STOP NYTIMES ARTICLES! (1)

Rick the Red (307103) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212426)

Nothing anyone writes is worth reporting on Slashdot if we can't read it. If clicking on the link brings up anything other than the article intended, then we can't read the article.

move link to first page (3, Informative)

khallow (566160) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212257)

Currently this story links to the second page of the article.

Re:move link to first page (2, Informative)

MikeXpop (614167) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212361)

Here's the first page link [nytimes.com] for the lazy.

Google link (1)

Via_Patrino (702161) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212400)

Google link here [nytimes.com]

two words (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212268)

slash2004 twice

Hubble, space station, which is it? (1, Interesting)

Keith Mickunas (460655) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212270)

Does the hubble really count as a space station? Or is the author implying that if the Hubble is dangerous, so is the ISS? Just what is the problem.

Oh yeah, I second the "no more NYT" opinion.

Re:Hubble, space station, which is it? (3, Informative)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212292)

I think he meant that if the hubble is `useless' and we're pulling funding, then we might as well also pull funding from the space station, since it is also `useless'.

Re:Hubble, space station, which is it? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212299)

no the hubble is not a space station, the space station is the space station, dipsh*t. the point is that flying to both is about equally dangerous/safe.

Re:Hubble, space station, which is it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212495)

Yes, God forgive that all I have to do is give an email addr and password and I can have access to things that I'd otherwise have to pay for. Tin foil hats, and bitching, are long past passe on here.

Re:Hubble, space station, which is it? (1)

Shadows (121287) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212523)

Did anyone expect... (2, Flamebait)

terraformer (617565) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212271)

...differently? Lets face it, the tax cuts served two purposes for the Bush administration, buy off support of the richest in America and to run the finances of the nation into the ground so far that we would have to cut spending. This Mars crap is just that, a canard to distract the populace and make Bush look like a visionary. Given it was unfunded I would imagine he does not have any serious desire to see the US travel to Mars, although I would imagine he would like Terry McCauliffe get sent there...

Re:Did anyone expect... (1, Offtopic)

luckylindy (719051) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212337)

It is clear to me that after the election the bush admin will have to make 'hard choices' and nasa will be cut back from 15 billion to 5 billion, just enough to do a couple more mars probes for show and tell. Abandon the shuttle, abandon the space station and siphon the money off to black projects and more wars. More wars used to mean more business in the US and that helped the economy but these days even the means of war material production is being outsourced from the US.

Re:Did anyone expect... (-1, Offtopic)

Rick the Red (307103) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212385)

Bush won't kill the shuttle until the Air Force has another way to get soldiers into space. Perhaps they already do. Anyone else seen one of those "Aurora" planes lately?

Re:Did anyone expect... (4, Insightful)

RickHunter (103108) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212503)

Actually, Bush has been increasing funding, and shows no sign of stopping. Tax cuts are an excuse to cut public funding - medicare, education, social security, NASA, intelligence, and the like - while boosting corporate welfare and payoffs to the richest 1% (which compose 99% of the Bush White House - big surprise!).

Hey, (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212273)

Don't forget to pay your cock-smoking tea-baggers. The need money too.

safety issues (5, Insightful)

sinucus (85222) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212277)

These safety issues are just plain silly. It's the same thing as to why we are allowing our privacy and dignity to be invaded when taking a plane somewhere. The columbia crash sucks, yes, but when did a couple of human deaths ever stop human invention. There are still 6 billion people on this planet I don't think we should stop our science because a couple people died. The next telescope to be put in space won't happen until 2012 and it can't even see the same spectrum that hubble can. The new one is going to be infrared, hubble on the other hand uses human visible spectrum. This is a loss that can't be imagined. Stop playing your silly little games NASA and let us use hubble!

Re:safety issues (0)

77Punker (673758) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212309)

Exactly. Safety is the concern of the astronauts. As long as they know the risks and they're not wasting an extra assload of money by killing too many of them, it's fine by me.

Re:safety issues (2, Insightful)

sinucus (85222) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212352)

Ok, since you seem to be so concered, how about you talk about how many people die from useless things like DRIVING YOUR CAR, sun bathing, smoking cigarettes? Over a MILLION people a year die from those 3 things. According to NASA we should stop doing all three of those things because they are too dangerous.

Re:safety issues (1)

77Punker (673758) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212378)

I think you're misreading me. I don't care how many astronauts die. If you're going to do something that'll get you killed like driving recklessly, going into space, smoking, etc. it's your own problem.

Re:safety issues (2, Insightful)

sinucus (85222) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212396)

oops, you're correct. Terribly sorry for that. This whole subject just gets me riled up. I apologize again.

Re:safety issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212394)

Wow his car sounds like a deathtrap !

Re:safety issues (2, Insightful)

gooberguy (453295) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212404)

Umm, you two seem to be agreeing. The parent poster simply said that as long as NASA isn't wasting money destroying shuttles, and the astronauts know the risk and accept it, then the shuttle missions should continue.

Re:safety issues (1, Troll)

sinucus (85222) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212431)

yes, that is so. I misread his comment and was too quick to reply.

Re:safety issues (4, Insightful)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212334)

The next telescope to be put in space won't happen until 2012...

That's assuming it will even happen. I can imagine how a few funding cuts and some unfortunate accidents can delay that until 2030, or at worst, cancel the whole program. (ie: there is a huge debt now - won't surprise me if the space program is the first to be cut).

Re:safety issues (4, Insightful)

Rick the Red (307103) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212456)

As long as thr Russians and Chinese are putting people into space, the USA will, too. The difference is that it may well be exclusively via secret military programs.

Re:safety issues (1)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212536)

The space race is primarily a PR campaign. Secret military space missions wouldn't serve that purpose. If anything gets cut, it will probably be the pure scientific missions that aren't good press.

Re:safety issues (5, Insightful)

jaylen (59655) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212351)

Stop playing your silly little games NASA and let us use hubble!

Believe me, it is not NASA that is playing this silly little game. :( Take a look higher up the money chain than NASA itself. With the budget in such a state (in so short a time too) the Republicans are desperate to find anything that they can cut costs on, and Hubble is the first to go - followed a close second by the IIS.

Can you copy the article here? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212284)

Would it be a copywrite violation if someone was to quote the whole article text here so that non-subscribers can see it?

Re:Can you copy the article here? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212324)

It would nut bee "copywrite" violation if some one was too quoth the hole artical text hear butt change teh speling allot.

Re:Can you copy the article here? (1)

Uber Banker (655221) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212340)

try this [nytimes.com]

Political reasons... (2, Interesting)

Xentor (600436) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212288)

So does that mean Bush is going to make a campaign pledge to stop "wasting money" on NASA?

I'll vote for the first president who promises to fund research in Lofstrom Loops [homoexcelsior.com] or the like...

Re:Political reasons... (4, Insightful)

Homology (639438) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212386)

So does that mean Bush is going to make a campaign pledge to stop "wasting money" on NASA? I'll vote for the first president who promises to fund research in Lofstrom Loops or the like...

Is a promise from President Bush to be taken at face value? From a man that has no qualms about lying to the public with a regularity and a level never seen before from an US President?

Re:Political reasons... (1)

Rick the Red (307103) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212505)

lying to the public with a regularity and a level never seen before from an US President
Have you forgotton the last three presidents already? They all lied.

She was good while she lasted (3, Insightful)

MonkeysKickAss (735143) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212298)

Well it was great while it lasted and can never truly be replaced because it was a great achievment during its time period. As technology grows their will be a new and improved telescope that will take its place but the Hubble will never be forgoten. Hubble RIS (Rest In Space)

Re:She was good while she lasted (3, Interesting)

sinucus (85222) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212333)

No, there won't! That's the point. Hubble's replacement is scheduled for 2012 and it sees in infrared. Hubble uses visible light spectrum. There is no scheduled replacement for hubble. We can not afford to lose Hubble! I'm outraged, let's just spend 10 Billion USD on football because apparently people care more about that than learning about our universe.

Re:She was good while she lasted (4, Informative)

virtual_mps (62997) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212492)

No, there won't! That's the point. Hubble's replacement is scheduled for 2012 and it sees in infrared. Hubble uses visible light spectrum. There is no scheduled replacement for hubble.

Except, of course, for the new generation of ground-based telescopes with better resolving power than the hubble. It's silly to spend more money on inferior technology just because it's space-based and therefor "must be cooler".

Re:She was good while she lasted (4, Informative)

big-magic (695949) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212512)

Hubble's replacement is scheduled for 2012 and it sees in infrared. Hubble uses visible light spectrum. There is no scheduled replacement for hubble.

I don't know the details of the spectrum that the Webb telescope will be able to view. But viewing only infrared is not as odd as it seems. Visible light and infrared astronomy overlap a great deal. The really deep objects are so greatly red-shifted, they are in the infrared when the light gets to us. And since the Webb telescope is primarily for viewing such objects, this makes sense. But you are right in that it will not be a direct replacement for the Hubble, although it is close.

And I agree that shutting down Hubble makes no sense. It is doing great astronomy and could continue doing so for many years. I also think it's a mistake to put the Webb telescope at the L2 point rather than in Earth orbit. Hubble has shown that the ability to do repair missions is invaluable.

Really, did anyone expect anything else? (0, Redundant)

terraformer (617565) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212301)

Lets face it, the tax cuts served two purposes for the Bush administration, buy off support of the richest in America and to run the finances of the nation into the ground so far that we would have to cut spending. This Mars crap is just that, a canard to distract the populace and make Bush look like a visionary. Given it was unfunded I would imagine he does not have any serious desire to see the US travel to Mars, although I would imagine he would like Terry McCauliffe get sent there...

Re:Really, did anyone expect anything else? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212323)

can you post that again just to be sure

Re:Really, did anyone expect anything else? (-1, Offtopic)

terraformer (617565) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212390)

can you post that again just to be sure

I did it because one of the slashbots modded me down and and I did not think it would get modded up, it almost never does when it goes below 0. I hate when moderators mod down comments that are the least bit controversial or that disagree with their own opinions. I almost never mod negative and I never try to censor with my mods.

It is not something I normally do.

wow...deja vu (1)

queen of everything (695105) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212380)

Seen this before? [slashdot.org]

Are you trying extra hard to get your point across?

You wanted tax cuts. You got them (3, Insightful)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212303)

I will probably get modded down as a troll here but no one who supports tax cuts really understand that service cuts must follow.

This being just one example of them.

As voters you chose bush and must live with that untill Novemember.

If you care about Hubble then vote for someone who will raise your taxes. One or the other.

Many americans are upset about the deficit but they keep voting for tax cuts again and again every couple of years after things are paid off.

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212335)

Dude, by a number of really reliable metrics, we didn't choose Bush.

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (1)

Ralph Wiggam (22354) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212406)

But we have him now and we have a chance to get rid of him in just 9 months. I'm encouraged by polls that are saying more people will vote for anyone who runs against Bush than will vote for Bush. But if Bush does win in November, then the country has said that they want more wars and deficit spending. A democracy gets the government it deserves.

-B

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212513)

Nor does it really matter. Regardless of WHO you choose, they will lie, cheat, steal and fuck over anyone they can, whenever they can. Everyone will not be happy with what they do, and everytime they do anything, someone will bitch about it.

Eitherway, its useless to argue.

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (1)

quetzalc0atl (722663) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212415)

it is not that simple. most ppl are under the impression that the money that they pay in taxes is actually spent.

income taxes are used to pay the interest on loans that the U.S. treasury takes out from the federal reserve bank. our money goes nowhere except into the pockets of foreign investors who hold the purse strings of the USA economy. it is the growth of this defecit that is the cause of taxation in the first place: before 1913 there was no fed reserve and no income tax! unfortunately it is debt that was never meant to be repaid, since you cannot pay off debt with more debt...does Argentina come to mind?

cutting taxes has nothing to do with cutting hubble. neither democrats nor republicans are really honest about this issue, since they both spend a great deal of money, but at least i know that republicans are not going to wind up spending it on needles and worthless social programs.

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (1)

zeux (129034) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212458)

... but at least i know that republicans are not going to wind up spending it on needles and worthless social programs.

When was the last time you went to a public school?

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (1)

quetzalc0atl (722663) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212527)

i dunno u tell me. the entire public school system is the utopia of democrats.

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212506)

> least i know that republicans are not going to wind up spending it on needles and worthless social programs.

Seems they prefer spending it on needless and worthless wars instead.

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212440)

No, as voters, we did NOT choose Bush, the Electoral college did. If you had paid attention, you'll find W. did not win the popular vote.

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (4, Informative)

costas (38724) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212441)

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212471)

Whoa, dude... while I completely agree with you... cutting the military??? Are you insane?? That's a great way to get voted right out of office in the next election... the US military budget is all but untouchable (well, uncuttable, anyway) these days. After all, there's a country to defend!

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212504)

In this age of fighting terrorism and Iraq it will be a tough sell. Bush belitered Clinton in 2000 for cutting it.

People will assume you do not care about America or national security if you propose any cuts.

Also military personal VOTE! They voted for Bush because they were pissed at Clinton for shutting down bases.

Its like one big government funded wellfare program.

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (2, Insightful)

Jon Abbott (723) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212442)

As voters you chose bush and must live with that untill Novemember.
Correction: the Supreme Court (which consisted of five republicans and four democrats) chose Bush (not surprisingly with a 5-4 vote), not the public.

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (3, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212447)

Republicans make fun of "tax and spend liberals", but President Bush is doing even worse, he signed a budget that didn't tax enough to cover its spending, and therefore created a deficit. Just as we were finally getting around to paying off the national debt, we're now getting deeper into the hole. These are indisputable facts... the FY 2003 budget didn't cover the spending, and the FY 2004 budget proposal Bush submitted doesn't check either.

"Tax and spend" might be bad, but "Not tax and spend" is even worse.

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212474)

Deficit meficit. National debt doesn't mean anything. We'll can just print more money and pay our debts or simply ignore our creditors.

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (1)

jonman_d (465049) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212455)

I have a great plan. We'll be able to give tax cuts, not cut any services/government projects, and have even greater programs than before! What is this miracle, you might ask?

It's called the "Not Spending Three Hundred Dollars on a Toilet Seat" plan.

But in all seriousness, a lot of the money we pay in taxes is wasted - and by wasted, I don't mean spent on programs which aren't "necessary", but I mean just plain wasted. The $300 toilet seat was a while ago, but things like that still go on. Government projects overpay, and government officials abuse their free perks-of-office (such as flying around the country on Air Force One on campeign trips...).

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (1)

fredrikj (629833) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212477)

It isn't so much a matter of the amount of taxes paid as it is a matter of how they're spent.

A little bit less war, for example, would have done wonders.

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212494)

I'd personally like to see the military spend a little more efficiently, the money spent on nonsense (mostly, it's just the inflated value for stupid shit like toilet seats because the military is buying them and they have one supplier for most everything but computers, which they can apparently often buy on bid) could go to the space program. Of course people have a zillion places to spend that money, but that's where I'd like to see it go.

The military spends a lot of money on equipment of war, that's to be expected. Then they end up losing lives due to friendly fire and general stupidity because the people and not the equipment screwed up anyway. Something's not right here.

Of course the military does do and fund a lot of research, some of it space-related, but it's a pretty inefficient way to get research done.

If we could bring about a more peaceful earth, which would require in part our (the US') keeping our nose out of things which shouldn't concern us, which would in turn require putting an end to special interests (read: big oil) controlling our government, then we wouldn't need as large a military and we could spend our money on things other than blowing people up, and building our empire.

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (3, Insightful)

Tomy (34647) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212519)

One must look at how the money is spent. Imagine taking the 87 billion needed for the Iraq war and spending it on Nasa, education, researching alternative energy, etc.

It's really eye-opening when you look at just how our tax dollars are allocated. Here it is described with oreos. [e-tractions.com]

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (1)

jmckinney (68044) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212531)

This only assumes that all of the money currently spent on services is money well spent.

I think there is more money wasted in the various health and human services programs than is even spent on space-related activities.

I don't mean that money spent on human services, etc. is bad, just that billions of dollars are funneled into these programs that are never applied for their ostensible purpose.They get spent on administrivia, stupid projects, and so on.

I would rather see waste curtailed in huge programs than see important smaller programs scrapped entirely.

Unfortunately, Bush doesn't care. He's only interested in cutting the taxes for his support base. He doesn't care what doesn't get paid for.

Re:You wanted tax cuts. You got them (1)

queen of everything (695105) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212534)

From the NASA [nasa.gov] website, "NASA's budget will increase by $1 billion over the next five years when compared with the President's 2004 plan. That is an increase of approximately five percent per year over the next three years, and approximately one percent for the following two years."

I don't see how the tax cuts are cutting the budget when NASA is saying that their budget will be increasing over the next 5 years with the President's plan.

Let the astronaughts take the risk (5, Insightful)

RandBlade (749321) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212320)

The astronaughts on board Columbia and all the other NASA astronaughts who're being kept grounded now understand that going into space is risky. They're interested in what they do, they've chosen to take the risks and they're interested in the science.

If the adminstration were to let the astronaughts decide whether to go up to fix Hubble when required, I doubt they would have a shortage of them volunteering to do that. The last thing the late astronaughts aboard Columbia would have wanted was to see their deaths result in the grounding of the space program and the premature death of Hubble.

yes... the "small government" Republicans again (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212325)

please oh mighty Republicans, help us help ourselves by increasing the tax and administrative burden of life. Protect us from the "other" big government party that seeks to do the very things you do. Please rape me with taxes then give it away to who you deem fit. Claim to increase our security and place young Marine Corporals as the poster children of the new order, yet ignore the fact that said Corporal and his buddies see less than 1% of the actual defense spending.

I guess it would look bad to show the retired O-6 (or higher) or career contractor absorbing the money to produce systems that are of a quality that even Microsoft would never allow. Show us how you not only tolerate but increase the size of the bloated army of bureaucrats and their contractors that serves as little more than a money drain (or perhaps it is the Doctorate Thesis by someone who is proving that even a country founded on principles of freedom and liberty can too become a communist, top-heavy state)

text (5, Informative)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212327)

Engineer's Papers Dispute Hubble Decision
By DENNIS OVERBYE

Published: February 7, 2004

ASA's decision to abandon its crown scientific jewel, the Hubble Space Telescope, cannot be justified on safety grounds, according to a pair of reports by a NASA engineer that have been circulating in scientific and political circles in the last few days.

The unsigned documents are attracting attention on Capitol Hill, particularly in the House Science Committee, which is expected to discuss the Hubble decision at a meeting on Thursday.

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"We're reviewing the Hubble decision, looking at it very closely," said a spokesman for Representative Sherwood Boehlert, Republican of New York and chairman of the committee. "We're going to be examining the views in this particular document as well as a whole host of others."

The documents have also created a buzz among astronomers, who hope that their wider distribution will help spark a larger debate about the telescope's fate. The reports have deepened astronomers' skepticism that safety and not politics and money was the issue last month when Sean O'Keefe, the NASA administrator, announced the cancellation of the space shuttle's planned 2006 maintenance visit to the telescope. As a result, the telescope will probably die in orbit within three years, astronomers say, instead of lasting into the early part of the next decade as originally planned.

In explaining his decision, Mr. O'Keefe had cited a recommendation of the board that investigated the Columbia space shuttle disaster last year that NASA must develop a way to inspect and repair damage to the shuttle's thermal protection system.

While the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was committed to developing this ability for missions to the International Space Station, which could serve as a "safe haven" for the astronauts if the shuttle was damaged, Mr. O'Keefe said it was too risky and expensive to develop an "autonomous" inspection and repair capability for a single mission to the telescope.

The new reports challenge Mr. O'Keefe's conclusion, citing data and references from NASA documents in arguing that the administrator's statement "cannot be supported."

The Columbia Accident Investigation Board recommendations and NASA's plans for "return to flight" include ultimately developing just such an ability to inspect and repair the tiles independently of the station. That autonomous ability is needed because the shuttle might fail to make it to the space station, or the space station may become too big and complex to serve as a repair base, according to the papers.

One of the reports concludes that missions to the telescope "are as safe as or perhaps safer than" space station missions "conducted in the same time frame."

The author is a NASA engineer who wrote the reports based on internal data and who declined to be identified for fear of losing his job. Copies of the documents were provided to The New York Times by an astronomer who is not part of NASA and opposes the decision to let the telescope die.

"Those documents certainly undercut the public position of the agency," said Dr. Garth Illingworth, an astronomer at the University of California at Santa Cruz and a member of a committee that advises NASA on space science.

Dr. Illingworth added that it was important to open up debate on these issues. "We need to get real information out there, and not just have a few people in NASA saying we know what's best," he said.

A Congressional staff member who was given the documents said they appeared to be credible. "We are taking them seriously," he said. Referring to the requirement of an autonomous repair capability, he said, "NASA's going to have to spend the money to do this" if the agency follows the accident board's recommendations.

The documents also argue that missions to the space station might actually be riskier than going to the space telescope for several reasons. Because of the space station's orbit in relation to the equator, the shuttle has to use more energy, increasing the chances that something will go wrong and that it will not make it into orbit. Moreover, one of the biggest dangers to the shuttle's skin is micrometeorite impacts while it is in orbit. When it is at the telescope, unlike when it is docked to the station, the shuttle can orient itself backwards in its orbit, protecting its leading surfaces from such impacts.

As for a safe haven, that could be met by launching the Hubble mission just before a planned station mission, the report says. If there was trouble, a second shuttle could be dispatched to rescue the crew. Using an airlock system, astronauts could move from one shuttle to the other without going outside.

The debate about the Hubble's demise is the latest chapter in the turbulent history of the space telescope, which was launched in 1990 with a flawed mirror and repaired by spacewalking astronauts. Floating above the murky atmosphere, which blocks some infrared and ultraviolet light from reaching the Earth, the telescope has provided views with unmatched clarity.

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Last week, in response to meetings with Senator Barbara A. Mikulksi, Democrat of Maryland, where the Space Telescope Science Institute and the Goddard Space Flight Center are located, Mr. O'Keefe agreed to have his decision reviewed by Adm. Harold W. Gehman Jr., who was chairman of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.

Efforts to reach Admiral Gehman and Mr. O'Keefe were unsuccessful. A NASA spokesman issued a statement saying that the administrator would await Admiral Gehman's review, adding, "At the end of the day, however, the NASA administrator cannot delegate his ultimate responsibility for decisions related to the safety of human spaceflight."

Dr. Douglas D. Osheroff, a physicist at Stanford and a member of the accident investigation board, said he agreed there was not much difference in the risks for Hubble- versus station-bound missions.

Asked about the board's deliberations, he emphasized that he was speaking for himself and not the whole board, which disbanded last September, and said in an e-mail message, "I think we may have mentioned Hubble, but do not think it was our intention of making it impossible for NASA to service Hubble."

Other space experts said that the reports appeared to be credible and authoritative. Capt. Bruce C. McCandless, an astronaut who flew on the shuttle in the 1980's and is now with the Lockheed Martin Corporation, said they appeared to be "well researched and written."

He said that the catch regarding the autonomous repair capability was the word "ultimately" in the accident investigation board's report. The canceled mission had been 11th on the post-Columbia schedule. "Sooo, if "ultimate" means in the first 10 missions," he said in an e-mail message, the service mission would be covered.

A shift in the strategic goals (1)

October_30th (531777) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212331)

Certainly it's a political decision. This decision has been made because the money for the now (fortunately) revived manned space exploration must come from somewhere.

No point in maintaining an old telescope up there especially since its successor is going to be in the orbit soon.

my take on that (2, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212338)

I think it's likely that the Shuttle won't survive the Bush administration. By this, I mean that the spending (as dictated by the Bush administration) on the Shuttle is projected to decline substantially after 2008 and that Bush can halt production of various necessary systems (eg, the external tanks).

Given that this change in the US space program is occuring during an election year, it's very likely that we'll get the good news now, and the bad news after the elections. The ISS is already in serious trouble since from what I've read of the new policy, it appears that we'll eventually discontinue involvement in the ISS after it's completed. That may mean that everyone will bail on the project confirming Zeinfeld's suspicions.

Re:my take on that (1)

queen of everything (695105) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212452)

I don't recall where I heard it, but the other day I heard that NASA scientists were discussing dropping the current space shuttle as we know it. Why are we using a craft that hasn't changed all that much in decades? They were talking about redesigning it from top to bottom and come out with a space craft that is a little more up to date with our current technology and is safer for the poeple traveling in it. I know talk of this came around the anniversary of the Columbia. Maybe the budget for current space shuttles is getting phased out to make way for better space travel.

Any good space-station science? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212346)

What the hell is the space station doing for research? Anyone know any science coming out of it? I'm sure there might be some life sciences, but is it any more than the Russians have already learned? I'm asking if any Slashdotters know of anything useful the space station has done. I know Hubble has been historic in what it has delivered. The space station seems to be a goose egg if you ask me.

Think about it this way ... (2, Insightful)

SuperDuG (134989) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212359)

You've got a classic car, one that is a real beauty. You drive it around and everyone loves to look at it and you've had nothing but great experiences with it. But you've repaired the car so many times it's actually cost the equivalent amount of two new cars which are better by features and performance. Now the damned thing has broken down again, the neighborhood loves to see you drive the car around and loves to go for rides in it, but not enough to help you pay for the damned thing.

Hence Hubble. Its taken some pretty pictures dont get me wrong, but has it saved humanity? Do we owe our lives or some pretty pictures to hubble? I think its time to let it die and wait until we get the time to put a newer better space satellite in orbit.

I say don't intentionally kill it, but let it die on its own. AND if you get around to it, see if maybe there isn't a cost effective means to do a little repair work on it. I know I'd rather my tax dollars went to puting a base on the moon where a larger more powerful telescope can be placed on the darkside. Or a roundtrip to mars to begin the study of sustaining life there.

So yes, I'm in favor of killing the hubble if it means more advancement in space science, which it undoubtedly does. Out with the old and in with the new!!! (no comment on voyager though)

Re:Think about it this way ... (5, Insightful)

niall2 (192734) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212496)

Lets not confuse space engineering with space science. Hubble is the only platform that can do many of the things it does. Ultra-violet astronomy cannot be done from the ground. And wide field high resolution imaging cannot be done with modern adaptive optics. This combined with its spatial resolution and technical advancements have lead to many of the largest astronomical advancements in past 50 years. No other observatory could have found Dark Energy. No others could have observed the deep feelds HST has and reshaped the entire theory of how the universe aged. And if it were not for the missions to service Hubble, ISS would never have happened. We learn more and more about construction in space with each mission to ISS and HST. So in that sence what we know about practical space engineering comes from HST as well.

Don't get me wrong, new platforms would be nice. Its just we don't have any, and if HST is allowed to die there will be no true replacement. The Web Space Telescope is a successor not a replacement. And the moon base on is so far off that it really isn't a viable option, given the ebb and flow of plans in Washington (Clinton basically killed Bush's original lets go to the moon plan).

Going to the Moon, to Mars, and establishing permenant bases is great engineering. Velcro and Tang for everyone. But pocket calcuators, while essential to doing science in the '70s are not the science. If you look at the proposed plan, science is out the door at NASA. They did this once, flags and footsteps of the Apollo missions. They almost didn't take a geologist to the moon to look directly at it. Lets make sure they don't lose sight of the science and just go for the engineering glory.

Re:Think about it this way ... (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212524)

Has it saved humanity? We will never know. That's not the reason to keep it around. The reason to keep it is, will it help us learn something that we don't know?

One thing I've learned during my relatively short life to date (just over a quarter of a century now) is that things you learn from seemingly unrelated disciplines have applications to one another. Things you thought would never apply to one another have a direct bearing on each other and if you don't understand something about them both, you will flail. For example, prior to 1942 no one knew that the sun was a source of radio noise. This fact now affects the design of a great deal of equipment. Astronomy has a bearing on electronics? How amazing.

It would be great to stick a nice scope on the moon, but we should be going there anyway. The question we have to ask ourself is, how much time will be lost doing research by not fixing it, and where is that money going to go if we don't spend it on hubble? The safety aspect doesn't bother me much so long as there are astronauts willing to take the risks. If you have to force people to go, then I wouldn't do it. It's not worth a single unwilling loss of human life.

Just walk away? (5, Insightful)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212365)

The record for space projects abandoned and allowed to rot or crash and burn is not good.

The last few Apollo missions were quietly turned into expensive scrap.
Viking landers where the budget to listen to them was cut before they stopped sending.
Skylab which was allowed to die while waiting for the shuttle to make it better.
Various of shuttle replacement projects that given a half-hearted try and dropped.

And with the amount of continuous program and budget changes, it's a miracle that the shuttle and ISS ever got off the ground. (The slow morph from Freedom to the ISS and now to this is extremely sickening.)

The cut-backs so that manned Mars exploration and a Moon base can go forward are a joke. After the cut-backs have been done, the new programs will never go forward.

lies in space (-1, Flamebait)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212383)

Does anyone believe anything Bush & Co crank out of their propaganda machine anymore? How much longer will we endure their debasement of the highest office in the world? Their cynical exploitation of every American hope, merely to perpetuate their power, and subsequent catastrophic destruction of the real basis for those hopes, has assumed the proportions of an actual shadow of evil across the world.

No more lies in 2004 (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212408)

Stop whining and get your friends, relatives and stranges to vote Bush out this year.

Every time I hear someone bragging about how he/she won't vote "because one vote won't make a difference" I get this almost uncontrollable urge to slap them around.

Now is the time to vote.

Re:lies in space (1, Insightful)

bucky0 (229117) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212419)

You know, I'm burning 4 mod points I spent on this thread, but that is just BS. It's not the fucking Bush administration's descision. It's NASA's descision. i know that a good many people here probably hate bush, but that doesn't make him responsible for every single fucking thing that happens in the government. At least blame him for things he's fucked up, I'm sure you could find plenty of things without having to encroach on someone else's mistakes.

urghh...

Who's your daddy? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212427)

He is! [gnaa.us]

Science is not the point of space... (4, Insightful)

Zergwyn (514693) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212444)

Or at least I should say, science is not the main point. It frustrates me to see that every time an article of this sort pops up, it always seems that someone makes this (arguably quite valid) point: Why bother with manned space travel for science/exploration missions, when autonomous machines can do it more cheaply and for less risk? Counter arguments to this can be made along the lines of humans being more adaptable, flexible, etc, but ultimately the argument has a lot of merit. Except that it is arguing against something that shouldn't really be the main factor in the debate. We need manned missions, because we need actual manned colinization of space, for a great number of reasons. It seems like a good idea to not have all of our eggs in one basket, so to speak, and I am sure that eventually very big, important science will come out of being able to construct things in the asteroid belt.

But in the mean time, humanity really needs a frontier. Our systems have a tendency to slowly but surely become slower and more mired as time passes, in part because power tends to be gravitational; it gets concentrated in the hands of smaller groups of people, who in turn often become more cautious and inflexible with regards to things that would rock the boat. Bureaucracy gets bigger, not smaller, and it becomes harder to try radically new ways of doing things. The best way for change to take place is often for it to be experimented with somewhere else, and then filter back; this is what happened in the past with America. These people, coming to a new place without any entrenched baggage, got to try to start a system from scratch, and when it was successful, other countries could observe and then emulate and improve on it as it filtered back. But there is no frontier to experiment with anymore. The whole world (the oceans don't count, they are too hard/expensive to colonize for now) has people living in it. I think it is important for our development as a species to move on to new places, where new laws can be tried (including new ways of thinking about stuff like IP and citizen participation), and so that no single entity will ever be able to easily control everyone.

For many people, I believe that the excitement, opportunity, etc. are worth the risk and sacrifice that it will take. The Hubble has been one of our most successful and productive projects, and one that wouldn't have been possible without astronauts; the space station, in contrast, has in fact been sort of a waste from the point of view of both science and exploration. But neither should be the sole reason to keep or get rid of the shuttle, or the concept of manned space flight. A certain amount of capital is needed to prime things, so to speak, before enough momentum can develop for space exploration to become self-sustaining without government aid. This large up front cost has been and will be difficult for many to swallow, especially in our notoriously money hungry Congress. But as a country, and a species, we need this, and it will pay back many times over. I apologize for my long windedness, but I am hopeful that eventually some politicians will try to get votes from people with some large vision and dream instead of simply the usual issues.

Re:Science is not the point of space... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212538)

science is what makes it possible.. ..so science is essential to the long term going to the space plan. also through science you get the biggest paybacks.

Already covered this a few times (1)

Reivec (607341) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212446)

I am pretty sure I read somewhere that the cost of saving hubble was a major factor, not just safety, so this is no major surprise to me. But a quick glance through the archives here didn't turn up too many money related articles so maybe I didn't read it here. I did however find some other references in the past that relate to the story now.

NASA to Reconsider Hubble Decision [slashdot.org]
Saving Hubble [slashdot.org]
Space Tug to Save the Hubble? [slashdot.org]

Re: USA starting to hate george bush ? (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212448)


Iam glad people are starting to wake up when they realise that they personally are the ones losing out from all these funding cuts (and you ain't seen nuthin yet, trillion $ debts ring any bells ?), never mind mankind reaching out for his destiny in space for the goodwill of all men, Bush and his $ bum-chum buddies dont give a shit what things you lose, they are so rich from the scam they pulled on the American public their future family tree will never have to work again ever.

"look he has no clothes"

and we are wasting time

Re: USA starting to hate george bush ? (3, Interesting)

east coast (590680) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212521)

These funding cuts will happen with or without George Bush. The raw truth is that the public, as foolish as it may be, don't have alot of support for a serious government funded space program. Thus it will likely die on the vine. Isn't that the idea of "by the people, for the people"?

Furthermore, we're really fooling ourselves badly to think that NASA is going to do any real advances in the near future. Unless old George goes against the edict of the people and dumps cash into the space program NASA is going to continue to spend it's budget sending out failure after failure instead of working with what we have in our hands and what's on our doorstep. And since NASA really doesn't answer to anyone there will be no recourse for the blatent waste of taxpayer cash.

I've said it before ad I'll say it again, there will be no serious movement into space without the large backing of private enterprise. Give corporations a reason to get to the moon/mars and it'll be done in a third of the time of NASA's best estimates.

As for Hubble? If NASA is saying no than guess what... you're SOL and frankly I doubt this decision was based on anything that George Bush does or says.

Totally expected... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8212522)

...since conservatives are homophobic bigots anyway.

Hogwash! (1)

LooseChanj (17865) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212532)

The public story is hogwash. O'keefe is playing the safety card, to block the scientists from playing the "keep hubble alive forever" card.

What? (4, Funny)

cubicledrone (681598) | more than 10 years ago | (#8212537)

Who listens to the engineers anyway?

Come on! This is the new new new economy! All we need is marketing!

</sarcasm>

(This is funny because it's true)
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