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NASA Urged to Reconsider Shuttle Mission to HST

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the some-clown-on-the-moon dept.

Space 199

LMCBoy writes "Space.com reports today that the National Academies of Science has released its recommendation to NASA on the future of the Hubble Space Telescope. They conclude that 'NASA should take no actions that would preclude a space shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.' They also say that none of the safety requirements of the CAIB report preclude a manned servicing mission to HST." Read on for more.

"The NAS recommendation would reverse NASA's previous position that a shuttle repair mission is ruled out for safety reasons. In the wake of strong criticisms of this decision, NASA has also been considering a robotic repair mission. The robotic mission would not risk human lives, but it relies on a number of bleeding-edge technologies that would have to be deployed on a very short timescale. HST's remaining gyroscopes are not expected to last beyond 2007."

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GNAA PRESS RELEASE LOL! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694333)

GNAA files $20 million claim against Kent school district
By Erin Van Bronkhorst, GNAA [www.gnaa.us] reporter

SEATTLE - Kent School District policies are "institutionalized racism at its finest," the head of the local GNAA declared today as claims against the district rose to $30 million. Families of six gay niggers filed $20 million in claims today, saying security guards manhandled [thesomethi...planet.com] , handcuffed and roughed up the young homosexuals in incidents at five schools.
The legal action came two weeks after three gay nigger students and their families filed claims totaling $10 million, alleging that their civil rights had been violated when guards handcuffed them and used excessive force.
"These stories are just so horrific," Seattle GNAA President Darl McBribe [slashdot.org] told reporters at a news conference.
"Not only are our children being discriminated against because of race, they are victims of excessive force and in some cases they are being criminalized," Darl said, noting that some students were charged with assault for resisting the guards' rough handling.

Superintendent [macalester.edu] Barbara Grohe said the district is working with the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to appoint an independent investigator to look into the allegations outlined in the claims.
"We take claims from our parents very, very seriously," Grohe said. "We intend to investigate these. We also, however, take responsibility for providing a safe and supportive learning environment for our children."
Grohe rejected the notion that the district is fostering institutionalized racism. "I believe the district has shown a long-standing commitment to a very diverse community," she said, noting that a diversity task force has been in place for 10 years.
A total of nine children and their families have now filed claims against Kent schools through the Seattle chapter of the Gay Nigger Association of America [www.gnaa.us] .

As a result of the initial claims, "other families started coming forward," Mack said.
Mack said the Kent School District, south of Seattle, has not properly prepared for an influx of children of color. Black students make up 10 percent of the district, while accounting for 24 percent of disciplinary actions, he said.
"In most of these cases, there's an issue of not responding to repeated commands," he said, but he believes no child should be manhandled and physically injured.
An 11-year-old boy told reporters that a guard handcuffed him and two other adults jumped on him in disciplinary action after a schoolyard fight. The children's fight had started when a soccer ball hit a goalie's head.
In another incident, a white male student visiting from Kentridge High School threatened two gay black students at Northwood Junior High School, McBribe said. The white student was told to leave; the gay niggers were suspended for "fight promotion" and "gathering for the purpose of waiting for a fight to occur," McBribe said.
"This is the district that your taxpaying dollars are going to," McBribe said.

Grohe noted that most often security guards are called to handle a situation a teacher or staff member has not been able to control. If a student is combative, she said, security guards are trained to "de-escalate" the situation, being careful not to harm students.
The district has 60 days to respond to claims before a lawsuit can be filed. Both McBribe and Grohe said they hoped the situation could be resolved at a March 24 meeting.
Kent is the fourth-largest school district in the state, with more than 26,000 students and 40 schools. It employs 20 security officers, all of whom participate annually in 10 days of training in diversity, defense and restraint tactics and school policies and procedures.


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| _________j1___________________________________ | All other inquiries:
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Re:GNAA PRESS RELEASE LOL! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694356)

Bravo. I wish to join your esteemed organization.

Re:GNAA PRESS RELEASE LOL! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694514)

SLDT02004071000009

Universal joke ID cataloging system info...

Currently assigned universal joke IDs are as follows:
SLDT02004070900001 - "no yuo"
SLDT02004071000001 - "vlad farted"
SLDT02004071000002(x) - "YOU FAIL IT (it is x)"
SLDT02004071000003 - "omg ror"
SLDT02004071000004(x, y) - "In Soviet Russia, x y YOU!"
SLDT02004071000005 - "Imagine a Beowulf Cluster of these!"
SLDT02004071000006(x) - "x is dying."
SLDT02004071000007(x) - "Have you ever seen x? That's the kind of martial arts I practice, and you're about to get one free lesson!"
SLDT02004071000008(x) - "x. What's it all about? Is it good, or is it whack?"
SLDT02004071000009[x] - "wtf is this some kinda x talk?"; default x="nigger"
SLDT02004071300001(x) - "I, for one, welcome our new x overlords."
SLDT02004071300002(x, y) - "1. x. 2. y. 3. ??? 4. Profit!"
SLDT02004071300003(x, y) - "All your x are belong to y!"

If you wish to tell these jokes in the future, you can simple refer to it by these UJID numbers and we'll all know what joke you're referring to.

The number system can be broken down like this:

AAAABBBBBCCDDEEEEE(x, y, ...)[z, ...]

Where AAAA is four character string assigned by me to uniquely identify a joke's source. For example "no yuo" was first cataloged into this joke library when it was spotted on slashdot, so its UJID begins with SLDT If you'd like to apply for a unique identifier string for your web site, please contact me.

BBBBB is a 5 digit value which specifies the year that the joke was originally cataloged. This joke cataloging system is designed to be y10k compatible.

CC is the 2 digit value which specifies the month that the joke was originally cataloged.

DD is the 2 digit value which specifies the day that the joke was originally cataloged.

EEEEE is the 5 digit value which is assigned sequentially per day. So the first funny thing that's said on any given day will be assigned 00001. etc. You may ask why this is only 5 digits. Well, its my theory that human civilization can only produce a certain amount of original comedy per day. I haven't established a precise upper bounds to this value, but all simulations appear to indicate that this value is well below 99999, so 5 digits should suffice.

(x, y, ...) is a parameter list for variable punch line jokes. For example when someone posts joke "SLDT02004071000002(life)" This should be interpreted as "YOU FAIL IT (it is life)".

[z, ...] shall specify optional parameters; the default parameter shall be noted in the UJID definition. Example: SLDT02004071000009 with no parameters will resolve to "wtf is this some kinda nigger talk?"

Re:GNAA PRESS RELEASE LOL! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694625)

SLDT02004071000006(GNAA)

Re:GNAA PRESS RELEASE LOL! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694665)

SLDT02004071000006(universal joke id cataloging system)

Re:GNAA PRESS RELEASE LOL! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694826)

SLDT02004070900001

I hope they go ahead with this mission (5, Insightful)

britneys 9th husband (741556) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694346)

What a shame it would be to spend all that money putting Hubble up there and then not servicing it because of budget cuts. That would be like spending $20,000 on a new car and then deciding a few years later that you can't afford to take it in for an oil change. It's already up there, they might as well service it.

Re:I hope they go along with this troll (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694360)

The upcoming presidential election will be critical here. Depending on who wins, the space program could suffer massive setbacks.

Insert political flamewar here.

Some actual costs from NASA ... (4, Informative)

xmas2003 (739875) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694482)

To be more exact, according to the NASA Hubble site [nasa.gov] , it cost $1.5 Billion to build and put it up into orbit, and has an annual operating budget (including data analysis, etc.) of $230-250 million.

And Hubble's second servicing mission [nasa.gov] cost $347 million plus another $448 million for the Shuttle flight - I believe that is in 1996 dollars.

So as a taxpayer, for all that dough, how 'bout some new satellite pictures [komar.org] of my house! ;-)

Re:Some actual costs from NASA ... (0, Offtopic)

evilviper (135110) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694584)

I believe that is in 1996 dollars.

OOOOOHHHHH... A whole 8 years of inflation... That could be 1/100th of 1% more in todays dollars...

Re:Some actual costs from NASA ... (2, Informative)

gilroy (155262) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694664)

Blockquoth the poster:

OOOOOHHHHH... A whole 8 years of inflation... That could be 1/100th of 1% more in todays dollars...

OK, I'm a child of the late 1970s, so I hear you when you scoff at recent rates of inflation. But according to the inflation calculator [inflationdata.com] , something that cost $1 in 1996 would cost about $1.21 right now. That's not really negligible.

Shame (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694347)

Would be a shame to lose Hubble. Hasn't it discovered hundreds of new plants? That's too invaluable to just let die out in space. I'm all for a robotic mission :)

Re:Shame (5, Funny)

kfg (145172) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694377)

Hasn't it discovered hundreds of new plants?

No.

KFG

Re:Shame (2, Informative)

LMCBoy (185365) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694462)

ahem [bbc.co.uk] . Well, one hundred anyway. In one fell swoop.

Re:Shame (1)

LMCBoy (185365) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694505)

whoops, sorry about missing the typo joke...

Re:Shame (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694553)

I'm not inclined to be a spelling Nazi, let alone a typo Nazi. I'd have to waste too much time throwing bricks at the rubber wall. However, when such results in potential humor I have a hard time resisting the striaght line, even when the typo is my own.

Since I'm of the habit of fashioning punch lines in nonobvious ways the odd person who misses the joke on first parsing may may be excused, although this does not prevent me from being puzzled now and again when vast hordes come out of the woodwork to brand me an idiot for something I thought an obvious bit of irony, e.g. my "don't fill space with nuclear radiation" post.

KFG

Re:Shame (2, Interesting)

jannesha (441851) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694597)

The hubble space telescope uses a CCD equivalent to a less-than-consumer-level digi-cam.

This site [hubblesite.org] says: "The Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 has four CCDs, each containing 640,000 pixels." so that's a 2.5 mega-pixel camera.

Let's all keep this in mind....

Re:Shame (4, Informative)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694792)

I suspect Hubble's CCD's can't really be compared to the ones in a digital camera.
From that same page: "They can see objects that are 1,000 million times fainter than the naked eye can see. "
For one thing, Hubble's cameras are cooled (can't find their temperature, but IIRC it's far below zero) to reduce noise. Also, the CCD design is bound to be different. This [mailbag.com] gives an idea of what's involved.

Re:Shame (1)

sotonboy (753502) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694924)

The area of the ccd is largely irrelevant. I suspect that the optics on Hubble are many orders of magnitude better than the consumer digicam.

Re:Shame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694464)

what are you talking about?

Show me the money... (5, Informative)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694348)

Safety concerns was the offical reason why they didn't want to service the Hubble, but this report most clearly is saying that's bunk.

But what about the finacial concerns? I don't think NASA has the funding to allocate to a Hubble Repair mission... could the safety claims just have been a smokescreen to cover when the real reason was because they can't get the funding to do this?

Re:Show me the money... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694353)

Odd, if anyone read the article, they would've seen the SAME FUCKING THING AS WHAT YOU JUST POSTED YOU CUNT.

Re:Show me the money... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694357)

All the money has gone to Mars and the unproductive ISS thanks to the current (lousy) Government.

Way to go Bush in not investing/repairing a device that has given so much and instead blowing taxpayer's money on some Star Wars-ian attempt to get to Mars.

Re:Show me the money... (2, Interesting)

Kris_J (10111) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694364)

I don't think NASA has the public support not to. If you watch the agency let Hubble die are you more or less likely to request that your elected representatives find more funding for NASA?

Re:Show me the money... (3, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694394)

In converse, it's the elected representatives who control NASA's funding to begin with... NASA can't fund a mission if they don't include enough money to do it in the budget.

The current political pressure on NASA is to go to the moon and Mars. If NASA has to spend all of its money on that, there's nothing left for Hubble.

Re:Show me the money... (4, Interesting)

Almost-Retired (637760) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694490)

I've already voiced my opinion to my representatives, in unambiguous terms. IMO its criminal to allow a national treasure like that to die for lack of a few million to service it.

They've done it twice before, and I don't see any reason they couldn't do it again as long as the shuttle they use is equipt the same as the one they used twice before. That might take some extra funds doing the retrofit.

Tell ya how to take a vote folks, have the irs add a 50 dollar checkoff line to the 1040, where 50 bucks of your refund would go instead to nasa.

I'd bet nasa would hear a get off your butts and doit message loud and clear cause I know I'd sure do the checkmark.

I use 2 of its deep field images, totalling about 70 megs, as backgrounds for 2 of my 8 screens. Everytime I switch to one of those screens I'm reminded of just how usefull that the hubble has been even if it was in need of a set of glasses to clear it up. The last one, showing stuff as far out as 13 billion light years, is a truely impressive image since we are seeing the universe as it was when it was less than a billion years old when that light was sent on its way here.

Properly maintained, that scope can and will be making new discoveries, adding to our knowledge of the universe and physics in general, stuff that cannot be done thru the haze of our atmosphere here on the ground, a hundred years from now.

I'd like to see them add an RPG powered ion engine to it, not a very big one of course, just enough to give it a few ounces of push so that its orbit could be maintained over an extended period as one of the things the shuttle must do each time its there is to give it a push to correct for the decaying orbit. That pushing we are told, over-extends the shuttles available fuel, possibly endangering the ability to steer at landing time. The shuttle that goes there must have the robot arm, and it must be stripped a bit in order to lighten it to even reach the hubbles altitude which is about 50 miles above the design envelope of the shuttle.

But the point is, it CAN be done. Dangerous, maybe. But I don't recall that any of the crews who have been there regretted doing it.

Cheers, Gene

Re:Show me the money... (2, Interesting)

Frit Mock (708952) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694570)


What about asking other nations or private organisations for money to service it?

What about selling Hubble?

What about giving it as a gift to anyone who wants it?

Re:Show me the money... (3, Funny)

yiantsbro (550957) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694648)

Hmmmm...an $800 million service mission so you can have pretty background images for your desktop. You sound like one of my users ;)

Re:Show me the money... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694383)

Safety concerns was the offical reason why they didn't want to service the Hubble, but this report most clearly is saying that's bunk.

Yes, but the authors of this report have got fuck all to do with the way that NASA evaluates safety.

If one or more of NASA's safety panels decides a mission should not take place for safety reasons, then that should be taken seriously. Not overruled by a bunch of scientists.

Of course they are well-meaning, but they are not engineers, they are not safety experts, and, frankly, those scientists who have a vested interest in this mission (i.e., some of the astronomers) should remove themselves from this kind of panel.

Re:Show me the money... (2, Interesting)

Yenchatech (692797) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694398)

While it's good to know that NASA keeps the astronauts first and all else second, I think most would agree that Hubble needs this repair mission, and that those repairs can only be reliably carried out through the skilled men and women of the astronaut core. While I'm all for robots doing some of the space grunt-work, the HST is a very delicate piece of technology, one that should not be risked to further damage through unproven repair techniques.

As to funding, yes NASA is strapped for cash, but attempting to develop and deploy an (at least) semi-automated robotic repair device in the course or 3 1/2 years seems like it would cost vastly more than any manned space shuttle repair flight.

Re:Show me the money... (2, Interesting)

Buran (150348) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694496)

The astronauts are actually quite in favor of doing the mission. They know what they signed up for and they don't like bureaucrats telling them that oh no, we suddenly aren't going to let you do your jobs. Guess what... spaceflight is risky.

Stupid bureaucrats.

Re:Show me the money... (2, Interesting)

mbrother (739193) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694548)

If NASA wanted to keep their astronauts perfectly safe, they would ground them all permanently. There is risk in the space game, and you deal with it, or don't. (One of my old professors from Rice, Jeffrey Wisoff, is an astronaut know and has previously service Hubble -- go Jeff!)

Re:Show me the money... (4, Insightful)

LMCBoy (185365) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694430)

But what about the finacial concerns? I don't think NASA has the funding to allocate to a Hubble Repair mission...

First of all, the instruments which were slated to go up have already been built, so you're looking at a substantial loss of investment if a servicing mission doesn't go.

I heard an estimate of 1 billion USD today for the robotic mission. A manned shuttle mission would likely be comparable in price. However, even if they don't send a repair mission, a robotic mission to HST will still need to be sent, in order to attach rockets which can safely splash it down into the ocean. Otherwise, there's no way to control where it will come down. The cost of this robotic-splashdown mission is half the cost of the full robotic-servicing mission (500 million USD).

It would be a shame to scrap HST because we didn't want to spend an extra $500 million to save it. That's almost exactly the average price of a single space shuttle mission. NASA's annual budget is $15 billion. It's not a lot of money, considering what we're getting for it.

Re:Show me the money... (2, Interesting)

node 3 (115640) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694607)

It would be a shame to scrap HST because we didn't want to spend an extra $500 million to save it.

It's even more the shame for all the money saved during the last year+ of non-flight. That $500 million isn't money that's unavailable, but it is money that would go to a purely intellectual goal. The current ruling ideology does not value social/intellectual concerns.

Re:Show me the money... (3, Informative)

wass (72082) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694518)

I don't think NASA has the funding to allocate to a Hubble Repair mission

Not really. NASA does have the money (assuming it's funding isn't further cut). But NASA administrator O'Keefe re-arranged the NASA priorities after Bush's claim for a Mars mission. The safety issue further added into this, but wasn't entirely a smokescreen.

This is troubling because Bush appointed O'Keefe directly, and O'Keefe reports (or is supposed to, at least) back to Bush. More annoyingly is that O'Keefe single-handedly made the decision to cut the funding for Hubble Servicing Mission 4. He probably had advice from some panel or other, but in his email he stated the decision to cut or not to cut would be his alone.

Luckily enough scientists and politicians acted out to fight O'Keefe's initial decision. Personally, I don't know if he decided to cut it just because of the Mars announcement or not, I think he just doesn't want any more astronaut deaths or serious accidents to occur under his watch. However, I think it's a shame to let NASA's scientific progress stagnate strictly due to safety issues.

On the side note, the whole Mars thing seems bunk, when was the last time anybody even heard any other information about it? Maybe there'll be some more talk about Mars (talk is cheap) until November elections.

tr0lL (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694355)

the chhosing Found out about the

Funding (lack of) (3, Interesting)

tirefire (724526) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694370)

I think the problem is that they threw all their budget away on that damnable ISS (which if it were unmanned, would cost waaaay less), leaving no funding for real projects.

I mean, what's the point of throwing people up in space station compared to what you can get with an orbital telescope? The price of reparing this has got to be a tiny slice of what the ISS gets every year.

Re:Funding (lack of) (3, Insightful)

Airw0lf (795770) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694438)

I mean, what's the point of throwing people up in space station compared to what you can get with an orbital telescope?

Apples and oranges, I'm afraid. It is true that people on the ISS cannot reproduce the valuable data that Hubble provides about distant stars and planets. However, the people on the ISS are capable of carrying out other forms of research that may be just as valuable. For instance, placing people on the ISS allows us to learn about the effects of living in space. This kind of experiment is essential when it comes to thinking about very long missions to Mars and other planets. Not to mention all sorts of other space-based experiments that may not be feasible without a human to monitor them.

Re:Funding (lack of) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694539)

Not to mention all sorts of other space-based experiments that may not be feasible without a human to monitor them
I agree to that


For instance, placing people on the ISS allows us to learn about the effects of living in space. This kind of experiment is essential when it comes to thinking about very long missions to Mars and other planets.

The question is: will we ever go to mars? and to do what? If we finaly have the technolgy to get there cheap and fast enough to send people just for 'fun', won't the knowledge and technology we have developed to support this not be outdated by then?

Re:Funding (lack of) (4, Insightful)

Graymalkin (13732) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694466)

NASA's means of funding is to blame in this situation. Big science telescopes like Hubble, Chandra, and Spitzer are one-off affairs. They get built and that is that. Hubble is an odd case because it has been serviced by the STS. The ISS on the other hand has to be constructed and launched, slowly. The contractors putting together ISS components make a lot of money billing the government.

The Shuttle's design didn't originally include solid fuel rockets. This was later made a requirement as part of a compromise aimed at lowering the Shuttle's design and flight costs. The company that designed and built the SFRs was called Morton Thiokol, now called Cordant Technologies, which was based in Utah. Coincidentally this company had strong ties to the NASA's adminsitrator James Fletcher.

Fletcher built up political support for the Shuttle by throwing some aerospace jobs to Utah. The first US politician to fly aboard the Shuttle was none other than Senator Jake Garn of Utah in April of 1985.

This is the same reasoning behind many of the ISS decisions. NASA can't build something like the ISS without pretty hefty funding from Congress. In order to get funding they have to promise jobs and/or money to the constituencies of the legislators they're asking for money. NASA's administration also knows that if they promise individual companies contracts they can get them to make said legislators happy by writing them nice big campaign checks. Almost all government projects are based around this favor bartering system.

Space telescopes aren't very lucrative contracts so it is hard to sell them to aerospace companies and Congress. The umpteen billion dollar ISS on the other hand is an easy sell as long as the construction can go as slowly as possible.

Re:Funding (lack of) (1)

hyperlinx (775591) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694927)

This is obviously gonna be a long term problem for future repairs and such....why can't have the shuttle mission go and move the HST near the ISS...then we could have ISS-based spacewalks (when the suits work) to go repair/upgrade HST...is there something about HST's location that's particularly special? Given the choice of no HST or a repositioned one with slightly less cabability the choice is obvious.

Why NASA bugs me (5, Insightful)

DrLudicrous (607375) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694384)

NASA has been bugging me for years, ever since the days of Goldin and now O'Keefe. I believe that both of these head administrators have been overly prone to political pressure, and that Goldin's search for life on Mars has directed way too much money towards the endeavour of exploring Mars specifically for life, or what we think of as life. It's a modern day El Dorado as far as I am concerned for a variety of reasons, including ambient temperature, lack of magnetic field, lack of overwhelming evidence of large amounts of liquid to facilitate mixing of various organic molecules, depressed solar intensity due to distance from the sun, etc.

And now what- we don't have the guts to fix Hubble? I think what this is really about is that we don't want to spend the money, that the head of NASA (O'Keefe is not even a scientist) is willing to bank on ground based telescopes under construction being able to fill in for what Hubble currently does (such as the almost burned observatory in Arizona). That is a dangerous, if not stupid, bet to be undertaking. Instead, we are going to throw our dollars at an improperly positioned space station that is doing trivial, not very important science and the search for life elsewhere in the solar system at a time when we are not technologically well equipped for such missions. We need to focus on near-Earth applications, going no further than the moon until we can bring down the costs and time needed to explore planets like Mars, Jupiter and Saturn for signs of life. I would rather obtain good astrophysics data than bad, inconclusive data about whether water existed in a crater on Mars many unspecified millions of years ago.

Re:Why NASA bugs me (4, Insightful)

bobhagopian (681765) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694465)

Oh, how misguided the parent is.

First off, let me say that I'm an astrophysicist. I value "good astrophysics data" more than anyone else. I think Hubble should remain in a functional state, at least until a replacement (with detectors in more than just a couple frequency ranges) can be put into space. I also believe that going to the Moon right now is a waste of time and money.

But, I will never say that about Mars. Three points:
1. Whether or not you are happy with it, there is nothing wrong with doing something that gets the public excited about space exploration again. Sure, getting a man (or woman!) to walk on Mars has more engineering value than scientific value, but it will re-energize the population about the value of exploration. Can you think of a better time for astrophysical science than the 1960s?
2. While we always prefer "good" data, we as a civilization would be selling ourselves short if we never tried to reach for the frontier. I think Kennedy said it best: "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard..." Sure, it's hard to obtain conclusive data about the existence of life on Mars. But it needs to be done. The fact that it's hard is no reason to throw our hands up into the air. It's simply too important to be ignored.
3. Despite occasional comments (and glimmers of hope) suggesting otherwise, the search for life on Mars is primarily focused on the existence of life in the past. Because most scientists now believe that life on Earth was carried over on meteorites from Mars, these studies are examining our very origins as a civilization. Even if life wasn't transported from Mars to Earth, discovering the abundance (or lack) of life on Mars will tell us a lot about how life develops in this and other solar systems. Now, honestly, which gets you more excited: smaller error bars on stellar luminosity data, or answering in some small way the mystery of where we came from? One of these makes astrophysicists like myself very happy, the other answers the collective questions of an entire species trying to understand who they are.

Re:Why NASA bugs me (4, Informative)

el-spectre (668104) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694521)

Whoa... since when are most scientists convinced that life likely came from Mars?

It's possible, sure. Even proven that the planets have swapped rocks many times, but "most scientists" ?

Personally, I'd find it quite spiffy if it turns out that life came from space originally... makes the mystery much more interesting.

Re:Why NASA bugs me (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694598)

Here is one relevant link: Life on Earth could have come from a Mars rock [space.com] Also check out NASA's Astrobiology Institute [nasa.gov] . Parent may have overstated the concensus on this issue, but he/she was certainly not incorrect that such theories are believed by quite a few people.

Re:Why NASA bugs me (1)

el-spectre (668104) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694629)

Yeah, it was the overstatement that got me. It's a big jump from "could have" to "likely did".

Re:Why NASA bugs me (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694590)

The technology and the cost benefit ratios just aren't there for a manned mission to Mars right now. If we are serious about going and are willing to be patient and work on the technological advancements that are necessary to make the mission worthwhile then I agree with you. However, a space cowboy style, flag and boots on the ground mission at this time would be prohibitively expensive and of dubious scientific value. Inspiring public interest in science and engineering is a noble goal, but one which is probably not worth 100 billion dollars of public money (and with NASA running the show it will cost at least that much). We would be much wiser to work on the technology, gather more data, and plan the mission more carefully so that our children or perhaps our grandchildren can make Mars a worthwhile endeavor. What we really need to be working on is better interplanetary propulsion systems for our spacecraft such as the ION engines currently in development at JPL.

I want those smaller error bars!

NASA relevancy: historical & fictional paralle (2)

Buran (150348) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694644)

I made the mistake of opening up one of Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels as a soaking-in-tub read the other week, and I've gotten re-hooked on the series. While the books don't play this up (excepting a few of the later ones), the fact is that these books actually, to me at least, provide a surprising amount of insight into why NASA is falling apart and no longer inspiring like it once did.

The books are about a lost Terran colony (that's us) that has been out of touch with the rest of the universe by accident (a series of natural disasters shortly after the colony was formed destroyed much of the colony infrastructure) and design (frustration with wars, politics, etc. elsewhere meant the colonists were isolationists in search of a simpler life).

In the Pern series, all of the colonists were volunteers. So too are all astronauts (and, presumably, all cosmonauts and taikonauts; so far, the sole civilian astronaut was also a volunteer). They know the risks they take, and it's within their rights, I think, to want to take them. Right now we have the bureaucrats running scared, and they're losing sight of that fact. Too bad, too, because Senator Jake Garn flew on the shuttle once and knows the risks involved. (Is he still a senator?)

So that's strike one against NASA -- they've gotten scared.

What's important to think about here is this: anyone who's read the series knows that there's absolutely no sign of any Terran involvement anywhere. Why might that be?

While the initial planetary exploration efforts were government-funded (see Dragonsdawn for more about the intial survey, and some of the associated short stories like Rescue Run), the actual settling of the planet was carried out by private interests. And that's because the government doesn't really have an interest in supporting long, involved work like that (because of the costs, relatively low return, and so on) beyond adding to its territory ("we have a colony there; we'll defend it; we can say we have a bigger empire now, and the people can pay taxes"). But if it eventually becomes generally accepted that the surrounding area is part of a nation's territory and no trouble ever is stirred up there, it'll just sort of quietly be forgotten except for boundaries on some maps gathering dust in some library somewhere, which (while never explained in the books) is quite a likely scenario.

Why should the government continue to care, when private interests in the form of corporations or non-profit organizations will arise spontaneously to do the job once it's been proven possible by all that government research collectively supported by our tax dollars (remember, NASA gets 1-2% of the federal budget, if even that)? The focus shifts from government sponsorship to private over time. (This transition is in progress now for spaceflight in the form of the X-Prize.) Once private industry figures out how to make a profit out of it the way it did with the "empty" Americas, I'm betting that all kinds of private-industry spacecraft will be built (hotels, asteroid mining are just two of the most common conjectures) and will eventually vastly outnumber government craft, as is already the case with communications satellites. The government doesn't have to deal with managing and funding all that -- it just issues regulations and collects taxes and fees. Just like it issues Charters to proposed colonies, licenses spacecraft, and collects application fees as well as (presumably) taxes from the colony itself once it's formed. Politicians are, after all, inherently lazy.

So that's strike two -- the loss of government incentive to become involved, because there's nothing in it for them anymore and because private interests have arisen that can do the job for less and with greater efficiency (Arianespace, Energia RSC).

There's a real-life parallel here: the exploration of the Americas, what we now call the New World. The original 1492 Columbus expedition was government-funded and was originally intended to open up trade routes (back to the "more taxes for us because we can tax trade, so we'll fund the initial work because we more than get our money back" reasoning) but the actual colonization of America was done by private interests (anyone who's seen the Disney version of Pocahontas will remember that the settlers were sent by the Virginia Company to mine gold, which would make the company money, and the company would pay taxes to the government.) Foreign warships only really showed up off American shores when there were economic and political reasons (to protect taxes, to prevent the loss of territory) for them to do so. Without such incentives, the colonists were left alone.

However, for a colony to be out there for so long that Earth is forgotten (about 2,500 years), an awful lot of things had to be done to get technology to the point where those kinds of things would be possible. While it's taken a surprisingly short time to go from the first space-capable rockets (V-2, 1944 - Space Shuttle, 1981), it'll take a lot more work to get to the point where interplanetary travel is possible, and that's just within our own solar system!

And at first, the only "players" with the resources to develop such things are nothing other than nation-states (the US, Soviet Union). And they do this because it furthers their interests (hot and cold wars, mostly, though if they can get more tax money out of it, they'll do it -- but only until private industry starts making them redundant.) So that's actually a point in NASA's favor: they can get people into orbit and private companies can't; so far, governments have monopolies on manned spaceflight efforts, and so far, they've got far bigger boosters than most private companies do (even Ariane had a fair bit of government help.) But with time, a lot of that will fall into private hands (Energia RSC, Arianespace, United Space Alliance).

For example, we're only now starting to be able to detect whether Earth-like planets exist in orbit around other stars (as opposed to large gas giants) that would be targets for such colonies -- work done by the NASA/ESA Hubble telescope; long space voyages will require experience in long-term flights (the Mir station and its Salyut predecessors along with Skylab were the first such experiments); we have to know how to land on, and walk around on, and drive on, other planets (Apollo did all that, and when we get to Mars, we'll learn a ton more), separate from and dock with orbiting spacecraft to support getting people and supplies down to the surface (Gemini); we have to know how to feed people while in space or on the chosen planet (so far, most of that kind of work has been on the ground), and finally, of course, we have to know how to cope with the unexpected. Who did all that? NASA and the Soviet state space program and a collective of European governments. A few privately-financed spacecraft helped, but even missions sent up by university researchers are often funded through federal agencies.

So ... with all that in mind, is it really surprising that NASA is losing relevance? While I really hope they can get their act together and do more great things -- they will still be a major player in manned Mars missions, I'm sure, as will the ex-Soviet state program -- the future is going to belong largely to private industry and the general public.

Who knows? Maybe one of my far-future descendants will be the head of the company that sends the first human settlers to a planet in another solar system. Maybe even one orbiting a star called Rukbat.

Re:Why NASA bugs me (2, Insightful)

mbrother (739193) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694556)

O'Keefe seems a straight up administrator/beauracrat without any vision. Goldin, who surely had flaws, was a man of great vision who saw the US and NASA making fantastic discoveries and developing new technology. I have a lot of respect for Goldin.

So we're just supposed to give up? (5, Insightful)

Atario (673917) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694386)

I could see them objecting to maintaining Hubble in favor of a better space telescope, or even "we haven't got enough money", but because there's a risk?

Is the idea at NASA that we should just not try something because there's a risk? I mean, is this the same agency that put men on the moon eleven years after being formed? Should I just not go to work tomorrow because I could get run down crossing the street?

What the hell happened to this country's can-do spirit?

Re:So we're just supposed to give up? (5, Insightful)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694442)

What the hell happened to this country's can-do spirit?

On 9/11 the terrorists succeeded in replacing it with "what can we do to best cover our ass."

MOD PARENT UP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694512)

n/t

can-do spirit vs. recklessness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694448)

What the hell happened to this country's can-do spirit?

Can-do is great. Disregarding safety because a job seems like it's important is not.

"The pick should never have been made. But peer pressure was used and I succumbed. That skid was heavy right off the truck with that 35 ton crane and I still had to boom down with it. Well, I got that skid about 3' away from where it had to go and stopped. My rear pads were about a foot off the ground and I had had enough. My foreman is screaming at me to boom down. I'm waving him off and starting to boom up and lower the load. He went ballistic. I stopped bringing the load to me when my pads were back on the ground. I should have put the skid back on the low boy but didn't. The foreman told me to wait one minute and pretty soon I saw an excavator and a D6 come rumbling up the haul road only to take position behind me and pin each outrigger beam down with the blade on oneside and the bucket on the other. Now it was showtime. The skid was placed where it had to go, the machine remained intact, and no one got hurt. People were clapping me on the back and telling me how "American" I was. Other people were shaking their heads. I could've puked."

from craneaccidents.com [craneaccidents.com]

Re:can-do spirit vs. recklessness (2, Insightful)

el-spectre (668104) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694480)

Sure, and no one would expect them to try this is the astronauts were likely to become injured. But just because there is _any_ significant risk isn't a good reason to cancel.

To use your story... every crane lift is dangerous, and a certain (small) percentage fail. Still, we are careful and take out timee. Had we not, the species would just be sitting around like Moongazer, afraid to leave the cave.

Re:So we're just supposed to give up? (1)

wass (72082) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694541)

I think that O'Keefe is more concerned about preventing more astronaut deaths during his tenure at NASA than scientific progress. So there might be less accidents in the future, but NASA risks turning into a marshmallow in the process.

It's really annoying, because NASA is funded w/ our tax dollars, but Bush has the ability to pick and choose it's head administrator at will. O'Keefe was a Bush appointee, and always in the back of O'Keefe's mind will be the fact that Bush can withdraw his position. Thus, O'Keefe happily pushes Bush's Mars agenda, which leaves little money left for Hubble, among other projects.

Luckily the majority of scientists, both at NASA and elsewhere, support maintaining Hubble and the other astronomical observatories as well (both space-based and ground-based). Many politicians (eg Rep. Barbara Mikulski [D-MD]) are representing the scientists interests, and have been successful in getting scientific hearings and evaluations to augment O'Keefe's personal decisions.

Re:So we're just supposed to give up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694558)

(1) Given the Hubble's expected lifespan without another service, it will have performed something like 80% of it's design lifespan. This is a mission measured in *years*. And the science that the Hubble can do is starting to become eclipsed by ground-based work. The Hubble is starting to become nothing more than a figurehead to astronomy that serves limited purpose.

(2) The shuttle is a 30-year old piece of shit.. the height of overcomplicated early 1970's technology. I would not fly on it if you were going to give me a couple of million dollars tax-free on my safe return (or to my next of kin if I didn't).

Think of how far automobiles have come in the same timeframe - superior safety, design, greater capacity and far greater efficiency. Just as that one friend you know with the late 60's model car is always having to get a jump start, the shuttle is more likely to explode than make it to orbit. No matter how well maintained it is, the bodies themselves are ancient and well past the original design lifespan. It still uses *tiles* for god's sake - today you can make the hull out of high-tech materials that can take the stresses of re-entry without protection - without heavy tiles that are prone to falling off.

Anyway, if you want an orbital shuttle, you should resurrect the DC-X, DC-AX, X-33 and X-34 projects but with sane budget control and no bullshit $200,000 mystery expenses on the taxpayer. These projects were the last great government single stage to orbit research projects. At this rate, the first single stage to orbit vehicle will be civilian.

Totally screwed up priorities ... (2, Interesting)

quarkscat (697644) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694870)

The HST provides the best telescope data, period.
The bean counter idiots in charge of NASA intend
to replace HST with an inferior IR space-based
telescope. The same contractors that have been
working on HST are working on the "replacement".
There is far more money to be made developing a
new telescope than there is for "maintenence" on
the HST. The development of a bleeding edge
robotic servicing mission also is more profitable
for the contractors than a manned mission.

It all boils down to money, and where that money
would be spent. Space robotics have a huge
potential in military applications, so the R&D
money spent by NASA can be parlayed into bigger
profits for these same contractors. The best
hope for the continued survival of HST would be
to farm out the repairs to China or India, but
the political costs would be too great.

The money misspent on the ISS has drained the
NASA budget at a time when pure science is
being sacrificed for dual-use applied science
and political expediency. The ISS has become
a fiscal "black hole", with budget overruns
that make the original projected costs of the
shuttle program look like kindergarten.

When real scientists running NASA were replaced
with politically "inspired" professional bean
counters is when NASA started going downhill.
And the Bush "back to the moon" initiative is
pure BS, as there is no valid scientific value,
nor the money to waste, for such a mission
directive.

Bad news for astronauts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694392)

Looks like the robots are replacing humans more and more.
More people will loose thair job, if this development continues on earth.

Whatever you say. Gimp RulZ anyway [gimps.de]

Make up your minds! (4, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694396)

If its on, give it the time and funding it deserves. If its off, don't waste resources on it. This to and fro nonsense just wastes money that could be used elsewhere and increases the risks if a mission does eventually go ahead.

No one's willing to take risks or make a decision anymore. All we need is another damn shuttle disaster to slow everything down and have people screaming "its too dangerous to explore space - spend all your money down here".

Re:Make up your minds! (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694416)

All we need is another damn shuttle disaster to slow everything down and have people screaming "its too dangerous to explore space - spend all your money down here".

Do you not suppose that this is the actual risk that NASA is considering when they say the mission would be "too risky"?

KFG

Re:Make up your minds! (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694470)

They are not going to improve the risk by deciding not to do it then giving their staff too little time to get it done when they finally turn their decision around.

I definitely want Hubble serviced. What I don't want is this BS should we shouldn't we crap that has the potential to cost lives and slow down the space program even more.

Re:Make up your minds! (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694495)

What I don't want is this BS should we shouldn't we crap that has the potential to cost lives and slow down the space program even more.

I concur fully, but that is the nature of politics and NASA is inherently a political body. A political body with no actual political power to boot. They can be yanked around by virtually anybody with actual power and that affects the way they approach issuses, which, yes, has already cost lives.

KFG

Robotic repair mission a bad idea (2, Insightful)

abryden (98211) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694473)

I do not think that this would be a good idea. While it would be impressive if they could pull it off, the risk of failure outweighs the benefits even more greatly than that of a manned mission. Attempting to deploy "several bleeding edge technologies" on a "very short time scale" for a project like repairing the hubble space telescope is simply not a good idea. In all likelihood the technology used will not be adequately developed and it will be a unnecessary failure.

With the recent success of the Mars missions, NASA is starting to get its good name back, they need to see this continue and properly manage their risk, not spend money on projects they know will in all likelihood fail.

Re:Robotic repair mission a bad idea (1)

HeghmoH (13204) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694564)

Attempting to deploy "several bleeding edge technologies" on a "very short time scale" for a project like repairing the hubble space telescope is simply not a good idea. In all likelihood the technology used will not be adequately developed and it will be a unnecessary failure.

You know, space programs in general and NASA in particular have a very good track record of taking tons of bleeding edge technologies, throwing them all together in a mission, and pulling it off wonderfully. Your scenario is possible, but I don't see it as being likely at all.

[OT] Your sig (4, Funny)

achurch (201270) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694721)

3.1415926535897932384629

In case you're not aware: s/9$/6/

And don't ask why I know that off the top of my head . . .

Re:Robotic repair mission a bad idea (1)

TehHustler (709893) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694763)

I'm not sure what you mean by this. The stuff to perform a repair mission has already been developed, and used on numerous occasions. In addition, the new instruments are tested and ready to go. This would not be a significant departure from other missions. What IS a significant departure is the robotic aspect, and the attaching of the deorbit booster.

NASA and Being Sexy (4, Insightful)

prichardson (603676) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694474)

The problem with NASA is that it wants to be sexy rather than actually try and discover stuff. Looking for life on Mars is sexy. Looking into some obscure spectrum of something or other with a huge array of sensors located in Antarctica is not.

Despite the fact that every time we try and use a new way to look at stuff (some obscure spectrum of something or other, for example) we find a lot out there, NASA stopped building an array of sensors in Antarctica (which son of George H Bush that put the pressure on them to do this is left as an exercise to the reader). The reason is that the populace seems to like sending stuff somewhere. Seeing more just isn't cool anymore. The Hubble telescope will fall into disrepair because people don't like looking at stuff. They insist on touching it. Even if that means the stuff is more than a few orders of magnitude closer.

I guess I'll sum it up.
Going to Mars with a robat that touches stuff and messes around: SEXY
Looking at shit with a few big mirrors: NOT sexy

Re:NASA and Being Sexy (2, Informative)

wass (72082) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694567)

Note - it's not NASA per se, but NASA administrators and bureaucrats that are leading this way. Most of the scientists and research staff actually support those science/research missions.

On the flip side, some glitz and glamour is also needed to keep the public interested, which interests politicians and helps them direct more money at NASA. Remember, NASA has to convince the government that it needs to be funded. The sexy projects have public appeal, and have more influence in this regard.

That's why nearly all NASA press-release packages have photos instead of spectral plots, even though astronomers probably use spectra more often than photos for most research. Photos are pretty and sexy, spectra look like boring stock-market plots.

But anyway, luckily enough scientists are influencing some of the politicians as well to keep Hubble funded (and other good projects too). That's part of the breaks of being government funded - you have to be useful as well as interesting.

Re:NASA and Being Sexy (1)

mbrother (739193) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694585)

And please, keep in mind, a lot of what Hubble points at, and NASA funds, is decided by peer review, that is, other scientists. We make decisions based on good science, not sexiness. Hey, I mean, look at your average scientist. What do you think we're doing?

Re:NASA and Being Sexy (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694568)

Going to Mars with a robat that touches stuff and messes around: SEXY

Looking at shit with a few big mirrors: NOT sexy

I think that should be rephrased:

Going to Mars with a robot that touches stuff and messes around: FUNDING
Looking at shit with a few big mirrors: NO FUNDING

Re:NASA and Being Sexy (1)

Nakkel (748351) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694599)

robat that touches stuff and messes around: SEXY

Mmmm... Sexy robot [couk.com] ... Wouldnt mind getting my stuff touched and messing with one of these.

Space Mission to HST?? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694476)

I knew Hunter S Thompson had taken alot of drugs but is he really out there in space (or just spaced out)?

Re:Space Mission to HST?? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694547)

RTFA Wanker!

uh.... (0)

StealthX20 (468919) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694485)

How long was Hubble supposted to be up and running in the first place and don't we now have ground-based telescopes that can perform as well if not better than Hubble? Ditch the nostalgia and let Hubble go. We'll get along fine without it.

Re:uh.... (3, Informative)

mbrother (739193) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694572)

No, StealthX20, we DON'T have ground-based telescopes that can do the things that Hubble can do. The no brainer is the ultraviolet, which cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere. There are more tasks, that depend on high-spatial resolution, that some ground-based telescopes can approach, but not match, at least not in all respects. The astronomical community would like to keep Hubble operating until its replacement is launched, but without a servicing mission that is unlikely, and hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent on new instruments to increase Hubble's capacity. That money will be wasted.

Re:uh.... (1)

tklive (755607) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694716)

well.. maybe not just yet
but the LBT project [nd.edu] promises to change that.
Sure, its slightly behind schedule, but its racing towards its first light pretty fast.

Re:uh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694829)

Yes, ground-based telescopes can see better than Hubble in the tiny fraction of the spectrum that reaches them. Except for the very start of the UV spectrum, everything more energetic is blocked by our atmosphere. Below the visual spectrum, there are some radio bands and a couple narrow IR bands you can peek through.

Although there are other space telescopes for almost every wavelength, the other thing is that everyone *knows* hubble. How many people know about the Spitzer Space Telescope? The Chandra X-Ray observatory? SoHo (Well, probably a few for that one)? But everyone knows Hubble, and associates it with breathtaking images of space. In short, Hubble is great PR for NASA. And good PR makes it possible to pimp congress for money.

Ground Telescopes (1, Interesting)

WeekendLazyness (719545) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694501)

Hubble is a great telescope, no doubt about it. Unfortunately, ground based telescopes now are able to get around the distortion of the atmosphere to obtain even better images of the stars than Hubble ever could. I'd hate to see Hubble go, but as long as NASA keeps supporting doomed projects such as the ISS, I think we are going to be saying goodbye soon.

Hubble not to be maintained? thats crazy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694524)

Hubble space craft is needed... Why? It is a known fact among the star gazer's that there are hundreds of blackholes just in our galazy. It could provide us with ample warning if one of them comes to close to us. The distruction would be on a scale humans have yet to see.

NASAs' Short Sightedness (4, Insightful)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694533)

NASA did nearly the same thing towards the end of the Apollo program...They scrapped the last two lunar landings, even though ALL of the hardware was already built and ready to go, because they didn't want to staff the control room and fuel the rockets. It has been said that this was equivalent to crushing a brand new Rolls Royce which has never been driven simply because one does not want to pay for a tank of gas.

The astronauts have already said that they are willing to accept the very reasonable level of risk to fly the mission and repair the Hubble. It is terribly ironic that one of the few worthwhile shuttle missions of the last decade is scrapped because something MIGHT go wrong. They seemed perfectly willing to risk human lives to fly loads of fairly useless experiments just a couple of years ago. Nobody would argue that the shuttle has lived up to the lofty promises that NASA administrators made to Congress in order to get the funding for all of this in the first place. The shuttle, despite that fact the shuttle itself is reusable, has cost billions more dollars than equivalent rocket missions would have. In fact, one of the main selling points of the shuttle, that it could carry 20 tons into low earth orbit, is moot because the shuttle almost never flies with the maximum payload for safety reasons. The decision not to save one of the best scientific investments ever made is a slap in the face after all of the money which NASA has sunk into the shuttle program. The Hubble Space telescope has added tremendously to our knowledge of the universe and inspired a generation of young scientists and engineers. If any further proof was needed of the impotence and wrong headed thinking at NASA then this is surely among the most damning pieces of evidence. Let us hope that they make the right decision before it is too late.

Re:NASAs' Short Sightedness (3, Interesting)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694815)

NASA did nearly the same thing towards the end of the Apollo program...They scrapped the last two lunar landings, even though ALL of the hardware was already built and ready to go, because they didn't want to staff the control room and fuel the rockets. It has been said that this was equivalent to crushing a brand new Rolls Royce which has never been driven simply because one does not want to pay for a tank of gas.

The worst thing of all is what the US government spent the money on, when they'd cut it from NASA's budget.

Vietnam.

I wonder... in a hundred years, will historians point to this decision and say that this is the moment when the American dream died?

I love how this system works (1, Offtopic)

WeekendLazyness (719545) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694538)

Hubble is a great telescope, no doubt about it. Unfortunately, ground based telescopes now are able to get around the distortion of the atmosphere to obtain even better images of the stars than Hubble ever could. I'd hate to see Hubble go, but as long as NASA keeps supporting doomed projects such as the ISS, I think we are going to be saying goodbye soon.

Within five minutes after I posted that, it was given a -1, despite the fact there was a spam two posts below it that was completely off-topic. Isn't the mod system great?

Happy to see this! (2, Insightful)

mbrother (739193) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694543)

Hubble is really super, and don't go spouting off on how it sucks, or is impaired, or how it should be replaced...It is the best thing going for now, and the last 14 years, and it won't be replaced for several more years. I've still got a few Hubble projects I still want to do, and preamture failure might mean I won't get to do them, and I *can't* do them from the ground. It was never clear that a Hubble servicing mission was all that dangerous in the first place, probably not as dangerous as two ISS missions, for instance. I hate to see a new administrator come in and make the sort of unilateral decison(at least he didn't solicit astronomers!) especially someone who isn't a real scientist.

Re:Happy to see this! (4, Insightful)

niktemadur (793971) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694637)

I agree. Hubble has been able to take a licking and keep on ticking in superb fashion. Hubble is tried and true, so why scrap that old, faithful VW Beetle?

Now for those that say that Earth-based telescopes (EBTs) can now do an equal job, I don't believe that for a minute. No two ways about it, once light hits the athmosphere, it is scattered and some of it is irrevocably lost.

Here's another aspect that makes Hubble superior to EBTs: Hubble will never have a cloudy night.

Hubble is perfect for working in tandem with EBTs. I'm thinking the Deep Field Proyect: Hubble gets the clear image, finds an intriguing gap, and Hawaii's Keck is called into action to zoom in as deep as it can on those coordinates. And then, voilá, the most distant object ever pictured makes itself apparent. The people operating Keck would not have known where to point if it wasn't for Hubble. This is just one example of how Hubble keeps astronomers thinking outside of the box.

Also, any more servicing missions that Hubble gets from the Space Shuttle will only increase the know-how for future maintenance missions, as there is NOTHING that can replace on-the-job experience.

For many reasons, including pretty pictures, I believe the only thing that could possibly replace Hubble is another Space Telescope, and that's not in the near horizon, so let's keep Hubble, what do you say?

Hubble (2, Interesting)

Lifix (791281) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694565)

Space is an unknown, it is one of the harshest environments to be explored by humans. You'd think we could do a little better... Nock Nock... Better, Faster, Cheaper doesn't work. We make stupid mistakes which cost a lot of money. As far as I am concerned, everything that NASA does is new, it has never been tested before, so what should NASA do? Test it! Improve it! Sending a probe to mars without sufficient memory is entirely avoidable, as are mistakes in conversion, metric systems, and a myriad of problems with hubble, from Nicos (100m down the drain because some ice expanded) to the Gyroscopes, to the Mirror has been a failure. NASA has had many successes but its last two directors have had their flaws (including our current directors blinding obsession with finding life on mars). Bottom line... NASA needs new management and a new Mission Statement.

NASA's "Safety Concerns" were a smokescreen. (4, Interesting)

node 3 (115640) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694574)

During the proceedings (thanks C-SPAN!), it was quite evident that NASA was not giving a coherent reason for abandoning Hubble. NASA claimed that a mission to Hubble was unacceptably risky, while missions to ISS were not. The board pressed them on just how and why, and the increased risk seemed negligible for such a servicing mission.

However NASA was excited about sending an unmanned robotic mission to service Hubble, and they claimed that there were companies working on proposals to provide that robot.

My take was that this is the result of putting a non-scientist bean-counter (O'Keefe) in charge of NASA, coupled with an administration keen on cutting social funding while simultaneously funding private contractors as though there was no tomorrow.

Re:NASA's "Safety Concerns" were a smokescreen. (4, Interesting)

BelugaParty (684507) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694730)

I did not see the c-span coverage. However, I can see why the agency would be excited about servicing the telescope with robots. Mainly, because such an attempt would serve two purposes: it could fix hubble AND test out new technology. I can see both a cost benefit and scientific benefit to this solution. Whereas simply sending humans into spacewalk would be a waste.

Re:NASA's "Safety Concerns" were a smokescreen. (4, Insightful)

node 3 (115640) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694831)

I'd be excited about a robotic mission too ... if I believed it would work.

The NASA guy (high up in the org) was really keen on the robot. He claimed to have seen "video" that was not (his words) "Power Point engineering".

I'm highly skeptical of the robot idea, and here's why:

NASA can afford to, and is capable of, repairing Hubble with a manned mission right now. The risk to the crew is negligibly greater than a mission to ISS, and NASA plans to send crews to ISS a-plenty.

The risk to Hubble on a manned mission is fairly low. The risk to Hubble by entrusting it to an untested and today uninvented and yet-to-be-engineered robot is very high.

I am *far* from convinced that cost and safety are rational reasons for the attitudes of being extremely against a manned mission to Hubble and being so emphatically enthusiastic on a robotic mission to Hubble. It doesn't add up. There are reasons I'm sure, but they *aren't* the officially stated reasons.

Tea Kettle (4, Interesting)

Graymalkin (13732) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694576)

The HST's data archive is currently about 12TB. That data lone is going to provide grounds for scientific papers well into the future. This data archive grows by about 2TB every year. That is a lot of data out of one instrument. There's a lot of good science left in that data. Letting that tremendous data source fall prematurly into the ocean because the HST was abandoned would be monumentally stupid.

There's also quite a bit of money and resources already devoted to the HST. Instruments and components have been built and paid for and the work is already done. Letting it sit on a shelf indefinitely would be a magnificent waste. Besides the money already spent a mission will have to be sent up, automated or not, to de-orbit the HST.

NASA ought to bite the bullet and push the envelope a little bit. It doesn't matter that they would be using untested technologies. Fixing the HST would be the test. I have little doubt that it would be feasible to robotically service the HST. A small cadre of tool laden AIBOs with rocket packs should be able to do the trick. If NASA is too scared to send people into space they could at least send a few cute robot dogs.

The technology and techniques learned with the HST could be applied later with the ISS' construction or even an in-orbit repair of a Shuttle or other craft. Maybe we could even start designing satellites that are meant to be services by robots to extend their useful lifetimes. Companies would be much more likely to invest in satellites if its potential operational life of 20+ years instead of 12 if everything goes alright.

Timeshare to raise money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694771)

Maybe they could raise money for a shuttle repair mission by renting a timeshare of the telescope out to japan so they can monitor schoolchildren.

They should just buy one Soyuz (5, Interesting)

Vitus Wagner (5911) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694794)

If NASA is not sure that shuttle can fly safely,
they should by one Soyuz from us, Russians.

Of course, Soyuz is technology of early 70'th,
but it would be newly manufactured, when shuttles are PRODUCTION of eithties. It is also order of magnitude cheaper. We fly space tourishs to ISS for $20millions or so.

HST? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694810)

Fear and Loathing: in Space.

Red Hat earnings restatement ignored by slashdot (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9694854)

Isn't it funny how Slashdot is ignoring the fact that Red Hat's CFO quit, AND that they are restating their earning for the past three years AND that the SEC is now investigating them?

If MSFT had done the same thing, it would be splashed all over the place, but when Red Hat delves in financial misdoings, they just bury it. What a bunch of hypocrites.

http://biz.yahoo.com/rb/040713/tech_redhat_3.htm l

Hubble, the Black Hole (0, Flamebait)

Mulletproof (513805) | more than 9 years ago | (#9694872)

Now I'm going to rain on half of everybodies parade and get modded strait to hell for doing so, but why should they put hubble back in orbit? No offense- and I like interstellar polaroids as much as you do -but hubble cost an ass-ton of money to maintain while showing next to no tangible returns other than said polaroids. Seeing fuzzy blobs that may be planets gets us... Nothing. "Seeing" further into space gets us exactly nowhere. I'm not talking within the solar system here, I'm talking about the crap we'll never be able to confirm in our lifetimes. And as harsh as it sounds, given the choice- hubble or the moon or mars -I'd pull the plug on hubble in a heartbeat too for as much of a bite as it takes out of my current budget.

Practically put, Hubble is a black hole for money with little tangible return on investement. In a budget where every dollar counts, Hubble is the obvious loser, and perhapse rightfully so. This is also an object lesson for all of those crying about how NASA and the current administration can spend their money better. Well here it is. Kinda leaves a sour taste in your mouth, don't it?
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