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NASA Preparing Manned Hubble Service Mission

CowboyNeal posted more than 8 years ago | from the second-chances dept.

Space 174

danimrich writes "According to an article at Space.com, 'NASA's new Administrator Mike Griffin told reporters today [April 29] that he informed key members of Congress Thursday evening that he would direct engineers at Goddard Spaceflight center to start preparing for a space shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope on the assumption that one ultimately will go forward.'"

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174 comments

So hard to edit? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12391965)

Change today to yesterday?

Hmmm. (-1, Troll)

James A. Y. Joyce (877365) | more than 8 years ago | (#12391976)

Manned missions have a surprisingly high rate of failure/death, even more so than any other form of transport (aeroplane, boat, car, train, bus, etc.). Are they going to be taking a Space Shuttle up there or a different craft?

RTFS (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392014)


perhaps you should of read the summary instead of rushing to get first post

start preparing for a space shuttle servicing mission

i guess school wasnt your thing, like most of your countrymen

Re:Hmmm. (1)

jackb_guppy (204733) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392015)

Are you messuring by passenger mile or trip count?

Becuase messuring by passenger mile, I believe you are very very wrong.

Of five space shuttles... (1)

James A. Y. Joyce (877365) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392032)

...two have been destroyed, both times resulting in deaths.

Re:Of five space shuttles... (1)

jackb_guppy (204733) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392104)

OH you are using the worst stat yet... ITEM COUNTS!

Tell me sir, how many miles did each of the vehicles rackup? More than 747? your car? Compare the operating enviroments that each must function in.

You may want to take a class on messurements as it relates to safty.

Re:Of five space shuttles... (1)

john82 (68332) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392154)

You can't pick the stats that support your contention and ignore any other (rather than dealing with it). Okay, you don't like an item count. When the items are human beings, I'd say that was a pretty damned important statistic.

You might also want to consider one of the main points of any manned mission: return the crew safely. There has never been a mission where the science part of the mission outweighed that.

And that would be safety.

Re:Of five space shuttles... (2, Informative)

jackb_guppy (204733) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392197)

Then you are for removing all forms of transport. Since in every from that are deaths.

The question is using meaniful messures to compare safety. That was base post.

Using item counts, One person takes one trip and is killed, then all vehicals that type the person used in the trip is unsafe.

Using mailage counts we can compare the reality safety of each trip.

Which bring us to you second point. Safely returning the crew... you are right, that is goal. How do you messure safely? Is is every trip MUST return a person safely... IF so then no trips can be made. First is point of my first paragraph. Or is there a relative risk? 99.9999% of trips will end sucessfully.

That why you drive car and BUY Auto Insurance and Life Insurance. The first is for 99.9999% will end sucessfully/safely. The other two, you are betting that you will screw-up!

Re:Of five space shuttles... (1)

Ziviyr (95582) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392124)

Many more people have been killed in planes.

Most people on those planes were not flying to advance science for humanity.

Even more die daily in cars, mostly for reasons that could be achieved through telecommunication (which has an utterly negligible mortality rate AFAIK).

So I'm not sweating a couple shuttles blowing up over so many tens of years.

Re:Hmmm. (1)

john82 (68332) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392097)

Try measuring the TOTAL number of astronauts that have gone into space vs. the number that have died [whosaliveandwhosdead.com] (including instances such as Apollo 1). To be fair, consider the Russian missions as well. It's a little harder to track them because the Russian/Soviet government has not always been forthcoming [jamesoberg.com] about their own losses. Now as China works on their own manned missions, one hopes that they learn [inthenatio...terest.com] from American and Russian mishaps.

Re:Hmmm. (1)

igny (716218) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392128)

Becuase messuring by passenger mile, I believe you are very very wrong

Yes, measuring by passenger-mile, unmanned missions have much higher rate of failure.

Re:Hmmm. (1)

grozzie2 (698656) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392569)

That depends on which statistic you are measuring.

For 'mission failures per passenger mile' they will look atrocious.

For 'crew deaths per mission mile' they will look pretty damn good.

The beauty of statistics, they always hold the answer you want to press your cause, just gotta know how to manipulate them.

Re:Hmmm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392027)

I don't know about you, but I'd rather be on a space shuttle than your boats, cars and planes!

To be honest, performing very complicated technical tasks and having the ability to diagnose an unpredicted problem, you need a human brain with human control.

A robot with a rather limited set of functions will not be able to pull any kind of Mcgyver moves...unless we send in a T1000.
-SJ53

Re:Hmmm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392030)

"Are they going to be taking a Space Shuttle up there or a different craft? "

They're going to glue a bunch of feathers on some astronauts and tell them to flap their wings really hard...

What the hell else do you think they would take? The shuttle is the only craft that we have that can do anything like this.

"Manned missions have a surprisingly high rate of failure/death"

We've lost two shuttles on liftoff/re-entry and one craft on the ground out of hundreds of missions. Then you compare a shuttle with a car or a bus? Are you kidding me? Show me a bus that travels at thousands of times the speed of sound. They're not even in the same league.

Re:Hmmm. (1)

James A. Y. Joyce (877365) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392044)

Uh, any craft that travels extremely fast is inherently unstable and dangerous, no matter how well engineered. Case in point: the JATO Chevy.

Re:Hmmm. (1)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392068)

Lost one on the ground? Which one, what happened?

Re:Hmmm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392100)

"Lost one on the ground? Which one, what happened?"

He's probably thinking of Apollo 1. Which wasn't a shuttle.

Re:Hmmm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392064)

Manned missions have a surprisingly high rate of failure/death, even more so than any other form of transport

Oh yeah, what about missile transport? I bet you never even thought of that, did you?

Re:Hmmm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392118)

Yeah, I regularly pop to the ISS in my fiat

This argument sucks (5, Insightful)

bechthros (714240) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392281)

I've had it before. It's boring and the two sides really should just agree to disagree. That said here's my $.02:

a) manned space missions have a higher risk. they also have a higher reward.

b) every shuttle pilot/astronaut ever (except for Krista McAuliffe) were trained test pilots. They had taken risks much greater than this in the course of being test pilots.

c) Every person ever lost in a space accident was well aware of the risks and chose to accept them. To say that they are not capable of making that decision, and that we should just terminate any and all manned spaceflight based on what YOU consider an unacceptable level of risk, not only disgracefully dishonors their service and sacrifice, but also their decision making ability. And for anybody to question the decision making ability of test pilots and astronauts from their slashdot armchair makes me physically nauseous.

d) when we've made anywhere near the quantity of manned spaceflights as we have commercial airline flights, you'll have a right to bitch about shuttles not being as safe as airplanes. Practice makes perfect, and we haven't had anywhere near as much practice at manned spaceflight as we have commercial air travel.

e) unmanned spaceflight, whenever it would serve the needs of the mission and the needs of science just as well as a manned mission, is an alternative that should be pursued. This alternative should be immediately abandoned if it ever impacts mission viability.

f) should we likewise abolish all fire departments and tell firemen they don't have the right to take a dangerous job that they believe needs to be done just because that job is risky? Fighting fires is a job that needs doing. So is scientific research and superatmospheric astronomy.

g) We're very overdue for a major impact disaster from an asteroid or comet. When, not if, this occurs, the only warning we'll have to all move to Kansas won't come from ground-based telescopes - it will come from space-based ones, which need to be serviced by manned spaceflight.

h) america, from the cotton gin to the internal combustion engine to the atomic bomb to the polio vaccine to the microchip, has been ever based on scientific evidence and rational thought. Our superiority in the marketplace of world governments has not been maintained by our security staff alone, but mainly by our incredibly effective R&D department. This is one of many things that make me fiercely proud to be American. And for self-proclaimed "conservatives" to toe this knee-jerk anti-science line is about as clear a declaration of intent to sacrifice everything that's ever made America great as one could ever hope to see (or dread seeing, in my case). Next you'll be trying to dismantle checks and balances... oh wait...

Re:This argument sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392596)

Amen to that, man. There are some people (astronauts, soldiers, sailors, cops, firemen) who are ready, willing and able to take risks most of us could not.

Telling them WE thing THEY should not be running risk would be like going to an ER medic and asking him/her "Why didn't you become a lawyer? You'd work less and earn more."

Re:This argument sucks (2, Informative)

helioquake (841463) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392900)

One correction: not all of astronauts are test pilots, though many take up flying before or after becoming an astronaut. It is true that the flying experience is a definite plus to become an astronaut.

Handling too much? (-1, Redundant)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 8 years ago | (#12391977)

With all the problems at NASA, I have a feeling that NASA is chewing more than it can swallow. They have too many problems at present. If they cooperated with the Russians, things might be OK.

Do not mod me down...this is just a feeling, and not backed by any [credible] source except for bloggers and pundits.

Re:Handling too much? (1, Funny)

m4dd00d (880223) | more than 8 years ago | (#12391980)

That wouldn't work. Russia is a communist country and the capitalist and communist economies are incompatible.

Re:Handling too much? (0, Redundant)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392371)

Uhh ... Russians Communist? Sorry to hear about your 20 year coma. Welcome to the 21st century.

Re:Handling too much? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392394)

Uhh ... Russians Communist? Sorry to hear about your 20 year coma. Welcome to the 21st century.

this guy must be a commie! burn him!

Don't mod me down? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392001)

Are you kidding?

"I have nothing to add to this conversation other than stupid supposition that is wholly uninteresting. Oh, please don't mod me down. Because I was able to post so quickly after the story was posted I deserve to have a +5 Interesting post."

Re:Handling too much? (0, Offtopic)

silentrob (115677) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392022)

except for bloggers and pundits

Right, because we all know that bloggers and pundits are all credible rocket scientists.

Just because you have an opinion, doesn't mean that it's worth anything. (I'm not referering to you. I'm refering to bloggers and pundits).

Anyway, flame on, and all that good shit.

Re:Handling too much? (-1, Flamebait)

johansalk (818687) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392029)

I agree. Now bloggers and pundits are supposedly more credible than rocket scientists. Do mod him down please.

Re:Handling too much? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392045)

"Right, because we all know that bloggers and pundits are all credible rocket scientists."

Not all, but some are: http://durrrr.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com] :p

Re:Handling too much? (3, Informative)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392038)

The Russians cannot budget enough for much more than they do now, which is why the Russians are asking NASA to get on with getting the Shuttle back up so they can resume some of the supply missions. NASA did look into funding the Russian program to a certain extent, but its forbidden from doing so because of legislation forbidding funding of states which provide support to Iran.

Safety Concerns (4, Insightful)

bigtallmofo (695287) | more than 8 years ago | (#12391986)

Griffin's predecessor, Sean O'Keefe, cancelled a planned Hubble mission in January 2004. O'Keefe cited safety concerns in the wake of the shuttle Columbia disaster.

There have been several successful shuttle missions [nasa.gov] that have serviced the Hubble in the past so there's no reason to think that this particular type of mission is more dangerous than any other.

I think anyone stating that a shuttle mission to service the Hubble is not safe has an agenda beyond safety.

Star Trek linked to pedophilia? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392198)

This has very little to do with the article, but a few days ago the L.A. Times published an article regarding the Toronto Sex Crimes Unit [torontopolice.on.ca] that focused on their fight against child pornography ("Sifting Clues to an Unsmiling Girl" [latimes.com]). They are the law enforcement organization that photoshopped the victims out of child porn photos in order to get the public's assistance in identifying the backgrounds (it worked). In any case, the article had this amazing claim:

On one wall is a 'Star Trek' poster with investigators' faces substituted for the Starship Enterprise crew. But even that alludes to a dark fact of their work: All but one of the offenders they have arrested in the last four years was a hard-core Trekkie.

Wow. All but one in four years. Seemed rather unlikely to me.

So, I called the Child Exploitation Section of the Toronto Sex Crimes Unit and spoke to Det. Ian Lamond, who was familiar with the Times article.

He claims they were misquoted, or if that figure was given it was done so jokingly. Of course, even if the figure was given jokingly, shouldn't the Times' reporter have clarified something that seems rather odd? Shouldn't her editors have questioned her sources?

Nevertheless , Detective Lamond does claim that a majority of those arrested show "at least a passing interest in Star Trek, if not a strong interest."

They've arrested well over one hundred people over the past four years and Det. Lamond claims they can gauge this interest in Star Trek by the arrestees' "paraphenalia, books, videotapes and DVDs." I asked if this wasn't simply a general interest in science fiction and fantasy, such as Star Wars or Harry Potter or similar. Paraphrasing his answer, he said, while there was sometimes other science fiction and fantasy paraphenalia, Star Trek was the most consistent and when he referred to a majority of the arrestees being Star Trek fans, it was Star Trek-specific.

Re:Star Trek linked to pedophilia? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392348)

... Star Trek was the most consistent and when he referred to a majority of the arrestees being Star Trek fans, it was Star Trek-specific.

So paedophiles have no taste at all when it comes to science fiction, is what you're saying?

Honestly, that bugged you so much that you actually called the Sex Crimes people to clarify it? Good grief man, they have actual serious work to do, they shouldn't be bothered with this trivial crap.

Easily explainable (4, Insightful)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392206)

You have to remember that Sean O'Keefe was a bean counter, who gave top priority to saving his own skin. His statement makes perfect sense when you bear that in mind.

Re:Safety Concerns (5, Insightful)

Gallech (804178) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392307)

I think a bigger issue is our society's overwhelming and ultimately hypocritical concern with "safety". We send men and women off to die in war ever year. Yet the expansion of human horizons through the exploration of space by willing people is "too dangerous". The men and women of the space program know the risks, and for the most part they embrace them. Yes, its sad when lives are lost. But human kind needs risk takers. And I'd rather see people "spending" their lives willingly on something the truly believe in for the betterment of all mankind, than for any squabble over territory or natural resources.

Re:Safety Concerns (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392677)

Kind of makes you laugh sarcastically and shake your head when you see a SUV with one of those magnetic "SAVE OUR TROOPS" ribbons on it. Every time I see that I want to stick one of those "miles per soldier" bumper stickers on the thing.

Re:Safety Concerns (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392695)

Think about it a little bit and you will understand. We have 3 or 4 shuttlecraft and how many thousand tanks, warplanes, and etc.? While the loss of life is tragic in either scenario, the loss of equipment in NASA is a big concern.

Re:Safety Concerns (5, Informative)

Sargent1 (124354) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392473)

The safety concern was that, if the shuttle had its tiles damaged by foam (or ice from the external tank) so that it couldn't come back to Earth, the shuttle couldn't transfer its orbit to the ISS for safe docking. Instead, NASA would have to send a second shuttle up and try an on-orbit shuttle-to-shuttle dock. That's why the Hubble mission was deemed "more dangerous than any other" -- the "other" missions are to the ISS, which can act as a safe harbor.

I think they know what to expect (5, Insightful)

Tekime (541514) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392009)

I have the distinct feeling most of these astronauts have a clue about the possible dangers. If any of them are that worried, maybe they should have gone to law school instead. Not to diminish the importance of their safety, I just don't see any clear reason why this would be more dangerous than any another manned mission??

Re:I think they know what to expect (1)

Phil246 (803464) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392117)

Agreed. Strapping yourself into a rocket composed of tons of highly explosive fuel carries with it a certain degree of risk.
After all, its nothing other then a carefully controlled explosion which gets them into space.
If an astronaut thinks its all of a sudden, dangerous work - then they really shouldnt be in the space program. Astronauts should be mentally competant as well as physically, and I would be extremely suprised if they were not.

Re:I think they know what to expect (2, Interesting)

RealUlli (1365) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392227)

Sitting down in a tin can, with several gallons of highliy flammable liquid, hurtling down a concrete strip, in close proximity with other, similarly configured tin cans is supposed to be dangerous, too.

Yet, we do it every day - it's called commute on a motorway...

Regards, Ulli

Commuter Jets versus Orbital Shuttles (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392324)

Comparing commuter jets to extraplanetary vehicles is like comparing wooden rollercarts to all-terrain motor vehicles. There is a significantly higher amount of work that goes into testing and maintaining the latter, where the former has a lower level of risk. And besides, not every average joe is prepared to leave this quaint little mudball (just look at how many people have fear of commuter flying, itself).

There are dangers in both commuter flight and spaceflight, but I would hardly call them equal risk.

Re:Commuter Jets versus Orbital Shuttles (1)

uberdave (526529) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392357)

Where did you pull commuter flight from? He was talking about driving in a car.

Re:Commuter Jets versus Orbital Shuttles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392520)

Okay, driving a car. Adapt your thinking.

How does it relate to the point made concerning the risks of everyday transport as opposed to orbital flight?

Convince me that driving a car or flying a jet is anywhere near as hazardous as spaceflight, or is as recent a development as spaceflight.

Re:I think they know what to expect (4, Insightful)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392440)

Sitting down in a tin can, with several gallons of highliy flammable liquid, hurtling down a concrete strip, in close proximity with other, similarly configured tin cans is supposed to be dangerous, too. Yet, we do it every day - it's called commute on a motorway...

Yes and in the US (this data is from 2001) there were 37,795 fatalities on the roads due to crashes. There were 16.35 million crashes that year, which gives and average of 2.6 crashes per Km of roadway in the US, and one fatality for every 168Km of roadway.

Driving a car is dangerous, and if these statistics were posted for any other type of transportation (trains, airplanes, space shuttles) they would be immediatly banned from use.

Re:I think they know what to expect (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392896)

A war on tailgating would save far more lives than the war on terror, but it wont get you elected president.

Re:I think they know what to expect (3, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392310)

The whole issue brings to mind Alan Shepard's famous joke when asked what he was thinking while waiting for the Redstone to fire off:

"I was up there looking around, and suddenly I realized I was sitting on top of a rocket built by the lowest bidder."

They are certainly aware of the dangers and if they didn't accept them they wouldn't be astronauts.

On the other hand, before they climb to the top of the rocket they strap themselves into a car carrying a hundred pounds or so of highly explosive fuel and take it out on the road with thousands of complete idiots doing likewise, who are not concious of the dangers inherent in doing so. Familiarity breeds contempt, even though, on a passenger mile basis, an astronaut is far more likely to die accidentally in his/her car on his/her way to the space center than in the rocket.

And sitting on a rocket beats the hell out of coal mining, but you don't see many people running around shutting down the mines, because their houses would get cold and their TVs wouldn't work.

If it took manned space missions to keep TVs working people would be willing to "off" a few dozen astronauts a week without giving it half a thought.

So there's Hubble's problem right there. It isn't part of the vital "communications infrastructure." It merely informs us of what's going on in the universe, not what's going on in the trailer parks as does Jerry Springer.

If it were pointing into Cameron Daiz's bedroom window people would save the sucker right quick, no matter how many lives of other people it took to accomplish it. It has the misfortune of pointing at the wrong sort of star.

KFG

Re:I think they know what to expect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392292)

I have the distinct feeling most of these astronauts have a clue about the possible dangers. If any of them are that worried, maybe they should have gone to law school instead. Not to diminish the importance of their safety, I just don't see any clear reason why this would be more dangerous than any another manned mission??

I bet it's the PR people who are afraid of a disaster, not the astronauts.

Re:I think they know what to expect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392296)

Actually, there is more risk involved compared to simply blasting into space and orbitting the earth. After all, we are talking about having two crafts in close proximity to each other. Of course, that is no different than docking with the space station.

But you are right. ALL of the regular astronauts know the risks. And yet, most (if not all) want this mission to go forward in hopes of keeping the hubble going.

Needs a PayPal account (-1, Offtopic)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392011)

While I support the idea that the government should offer some leadership, and tax people to support services they need but do not want, we also should leverage the power of IT to support more interactive spending, so we can buy space pork barrels instead of the traditional pork barrels, if we're so inclined.
Nothing like rose-colored thinking on a Saturday morning.

Good (5, Insightful)

Nicky G (859089) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392021)

It's funny just how much of an issue safety has been made in many discussions of a manned service mission. The USA doesn't even give its troops armored vehicles in its war, and that doesn't seem to really rile people up (discussion of the ridiculousness of the war aside). You'd think a little risk to save what has IMO been one of the most profound scientific tools in all of human civilization would be deemed an acceptable risk.

Re:Good (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392031)

losing is what Americans do best
textiles/cars/education/wars
space is just the next thing on the list

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392047)

losing is what Americans do best
This is really an oversimplification of the bureacratic ethic: if it ain't broke, fix it until itis.

Re:Good (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392065)

losing is what Americans do best

Except when it comes to losing weight.

Re:Good (1)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392042)

How many terrorists can you kill with a space telescope?

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392051)

String.replace(/terrorists/g,"brown people");
String.replace(/2005/g, "1950");

same as it ever was

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392086)

How many terrorists can you kill with a space telescope?

Sounds like a cool project, turn hubble to earth, put a flashlight "camera" in there, find a suspect terrorist, switch to the light, through all the optics, and set his towel on fire!

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392291)

Well, I dunno, they are really big lenses... Get the right focal length set up, turn toward the sun... just like ants on the sidewalk. Uh oh, the black vans are pulling up, apparently I've jsut discovered the "real" reason for Hubble...

Shuttle (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392036)

That piece of garbage.

I wish we had a stargate, instead. A stargate with which we'd find some Ancient technology and fly around in these cool spaceships. And then I would get to meet this hot chick in uniform, Samantha Carter, and she'd dig me. And we'd have hot sex for hours and hours. She would also make me wear a leash.

Oh well, man can dream... man can dream.

As a gal, I've got to ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392889)

What the hell is it with male geeks and their obsession with Stargate and the Samantha Carter character?

She isn't that great looking and the character is just, well, a fucking annoying know-it-all.

rather disconcerting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392043)


Griffin said today that a final decision on any possible crewed servicing mission is still pending NASA's successful return to flight with the launch of the shuttle Discovery. However, with that launch now delayed nearly two more months, Griffin said the Goddard team has to get started now to preserve the option of saving Hubble before the popular telescope is scheduled to go dark.

now mod me down if you must , but thats a rather worrying development

Re:rather disconcerting (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392085)

Why is this 'worrying'? Planning for a maintenance mission can start before Discovery launches. And the actual mission does depend on return to operational status of the shuttle. But there's no reason they can't get a lot of mission planning done now.

Re:rather disconcerting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392107)

its worrying that some people can get karma by copy and pasting a paragraph of the article then with a simple addition of "mod me down if you must" and a suitable eyecatching subject line and karma is granted even when there is no additional insight

To All Those Citing Safety Concerns (4, Interesting)

colonslashslash (762464) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392057)

It's been said many times before here, but we have to take risks if we want to explore and expand in new areas. We are still relatively new to space travel, even getting people into orbit is something that we don't have a great deal of experience with, so of course there are risks and dangers to overcome.

As a poster above me said, these astronauts are fully aware of what can go wrong, yet they still volunteer themeselves for the job. They have a choice over risking their lives to further the human race, and bravely, they take it. If we, as a species, never took on tasks that involved risks and dangers, we would have progressed nowhere.

I'm not saying safety issues should be overlooked, or brushed to one side here, it's important we get these people back to Earth safely, but it's also important that we don't let ourselves be held back by fear of what _might_ or _could_ happen.

The Hubble is arguably one of NASA's greatest missions, and to let it wither and die in space because a previous shuttle mission ended in disaster, would just be foolish in my eyes. I really do hope they do send up a maintanence mission so the Hubble may continue operation, and I wish all those involved the best of luck, you are truely the pioneers of our age.

Perspective (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392333)

Getting man on the moon was NASA's greatest mission. Getting into space was one of NASA's greatest mission. Getting Voyagers into true outer space (30 year life cycles) is certainly a great mission. putting sats at all the planets that we have is part of the great missions.

The Hubble is simply a tool. WRT to telescopes, I would rate the invention of first couple of telescopes as being great. But Hubble is simply the next step in telescope history. But it is one of our best tools at this point in time.

Yeah vs Huh? (4, Interesting)

jackb_guppy (204733) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392071)

It is about time that leadership is showing at NASA.

We shutdown a system over safty concerns, if that was really true, then get the guys off the space station and shut it all down!

NASA is about science and the need to know. That is a very human need. NASA is tech that makes up our very jobs. YES, even the check out clerk at your supermarket is using products in the job and life daily that came from NASA fund research and neededs.

Now we some at the head again that is thinking about "ruuning NASA the science group" not "how to keep his job". Before you shutdown a rescue mission to Hubble (or projects) what are real issues? That is science! Knowing the facts and THEN and ONY THEN MAKING A DISCEDION!

Re:Yeah vs Huh? (0, Redundant)

john82 (68332) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392116)

Hopefully, they will make a decision.

Spell checker? We don't need no stinkin' spell checker!

Re:Yeah vs Huh? (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392481)

This is gotta be candidate for worst decision ever.

We would develop a lot more technology and knowhow by doing the repair robotically, and it would be cheaper as well.

The next telescopes on the drawing board are all at L2 LaGrangian. They HAVE to be assembed robotically, so we might as well develop the technology on a target close to Earth. That way we know how to do it when the more difficult tasks come up.

Is it worth it? (3, Interesting)

LordoftheLemmings (773163) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392072)

Is it really worth sending a shuttle up to fix it? It costs so much to send a shuttle up to do it wouldn't it be cheaper to send up a new one? It seems to me that were going to spend entirely to much money on something that is old obsolete. Why not replace it with something new and better?

Re:Is it worth it? (1)

9Nails (634052) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392108)

Perhaps the risk of deploying something new and better with the gamble that it would survive launch are just as bad as if they go up to service the Hubble? Or maybe NASA thinks that they can be successful at the Hubble mission, and they need some positive karma.

Re:Is it worth it? (1)

andyh1978 (173377) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392130)

Is it really worth sending a shuttle up to fix it? It costs so much to send a shuttle up to do it wouldn't it be cheaper to send up a new one? It seems to me that were going to spend entirely to much money on something that is old obsolete. Why not replace it with something new and better?
Rather than send up a Shuttle to fix the existing telescope, because launching a Shuttle is expensive, you want to build an entirely new telescope and then send a Shuttle up to launch it?

Could an equivalent space telescope be deployed by an unmanned rocket? The mass of Hubble seems to be in the range that an Ariane could carry from a quick Google, but wouldn't it need to be deployed a bit more carefully than could be done through a rocket, i.e. that's why they used a Shuttle for Hubble itself?

Re:Is it worth it? (1)

dmaxwell (43234) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392639)

There is only the small detail of coming up with the main mirror and other optics. It only takes a minimum of 5 years to cast and grind the necessary mirror.

Re:Is it worth it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392682)

Which, after it is put into orbit we will realize was not ground correctly (again) and will need to send up the shuttle with humans on it to fix it (again).

Re:Is it worth it? (1)

jackb_guppy (204733) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392143)

What is really broke?

Needs fuel, a few stearing peices of equipment, maybe add a new option or two.

If that was your car... would you just buy a build a new one becuase it was out of gas and needed new shocks and you wanted to add a new a satilite radio?

Re:Is it worth it? (5, Interesting)

grozzie2 (698656) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392551)

If that was your car... would you just buy a build a new one becuase it was out of gas and needed new shocks and you wanted to add a new a satilite radio?

That would depend entirely on your location. If you car was in the back yard, in the middle of a densly populated area, just down the street from <insert major chain store name here>, probably not. It would be very cost effective to walk to the store, buy the parts, then fix the car.

OTOH, if your car is located at a research camp, on the icecap at one of the poles, far enough away from 'civilization' that the _only_ way to bring in those spare parts is to fly a ski equipped C-130 3000 miles to deliver the parts, you will rethink the whole thing. The cost of transportation far exceeds the cost of the equipment being transported, by a couple of orders of magnitude. If the C-130 is going to be sent anyways, it may well be more efficient to just load up a new car in the back, and deliver that.

If one goes on the assumption there is budget for a shuttle trip, then the real question _should be_, what is the appropriate payload to carry? Should it be carrying spare parts for the existing old hubble, or should it be carrying a brand new telescope of some kind. In either case, the 500 million launch budget will be used.

In the case of hubble, pork politics, and budget line items get in the way. It's really silly, because the arguement to decide if the old one is fixed, or a new one is launched, has nothing to do with final cost, and everything to do with 'which budget does it come from?'. Launching a new modern replacement would entail creating a new mission line item in the budget, a process that's not likely to happen. Fixing the old one would shift funds into an existing line item, a process that may well be able to be pushed thru. The amount of funds in each case doesn't even enter the equation, it's all about what can be achieved politically.

Dropping 500 million into an existing line item is possible, but creating a new line item instead, with a value of 300 million, not gonna happen. That's how the 'efficiency' of a beaurocracy works, in particular one that's designed to entice voters with financial mumbo-jumbo. Joe congress-critter knows it's cheaper to fix an old car, than to buy a new one, so it's _gotta_ be cheaper to fix hubble than to launch a new telescope.

The real problem with a system that works this way, it's so damn full of pork. When you sit back and ask 'wheres the beef?', you'll discover, the politicians live an a diet of pork. The congress critters have become so adept at slicing and dicing pork for serving to the constituents, dont think they even remember how to throw some beef on the grille and serve up a steak.

Re:Is it worth it? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392280)

They are replacing it with a new one. the NGST (james webb space telescope or next generation space telescope) will be on line around 2011. But it will not monitor the visible light range. In addition, who is to say that it will be produced? There could be future budget cuts, problems with production, problems with launch. In addition, it will be a long ways away from earth (between the sun and earth). If it fails, then game over. We have a working telescope that simply needs maintenance. The risk and costs of going up there is not that high. In addition, we need to learn how to work in space, so this is simply a step.

Finally, some common sense (4, Insightful)

localroger (258128) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392109)

You know, we used to understand that space travel was dangerous and that astronauts are not just special because of their training, but because any time you sit atop a thirty meter tall bomb and light it there is a chance you're not gonna make it back in one piece. Props to the guys and gals who are willing to take that chance and all.

One of the many things I have always disliked about the Shuttle space-car fantasy is the illusion that this risk has somehow gone away and "shuttling off" to space is now no different than catching the subway to work in the morning. It's not that way, and it's never going to be that way with the technology at hand. It takes a massive amount of energy to get into space, and controlling large amounts of energy is always risky whether it's getting into orbit or an ordinary domestic chemical plant.

Let us understand that space travel is risky as well as expensive. Let us do what we can to minimize those risks. And then give the men and women who are willing to take those risks the tools they need and the opportunity do their damn jobs. Let us mourn when they pay the ultimate price, and let us celebrate when they give us things we never could have had without their sacrifice.

Re:Finally, some common sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392243)

...a massive amount of energy...
Not really. 1/2 million kg of solid rocket fuel leaving each solid rocket booster at 2570 m/s requires about 1/50 of a gram of energy. Of course, this doesn't count the enormous waste heat, or the additional energy of the main engine, but it's safe to say the total energy required to put the shuttle in space is much less than one gram. (In contrast, the Sun liberates 4 million tonnes of energy per second.)

+5 Pedantic (1)

FlynnMP3 (33498) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392363)

Right...

You are the sole IP owner of this new miraculous source of zero point energy and expenditure. Going to make billions upon billions of dollars. Be the next BG! I sir|madamn and honored to have read you and basked in the considerable faux light you cast.

Leave it to the AC to point out unworldly solutions to physical problems. Sheese.

-FlynnMP3

Astronauts vs. Marines (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392134)

The sum-bitch govt sends out Marines to be killed in Iraq with inadequate armor and worries that the *Shuttle* isn't safe???

WTF? Oh yeah, killing a dozen astronauts is a national PR disaster while hundreds of Marines deaths are just... grunticide.

awesome (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392142)

Just goes to show the difference between a engineer and an accountant. The engineer will do a real risk assessment, rather than have BS made up and then force his underlings to go along and to take the heat for their lies.

The way to fix it (4, Funny)

lheal (86013) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392145)

Why don't they get a more powerful telescope on the ground and point it at the Hubble?

They could fix it from here!

I'm surprised nobody's thought of this. Maybe those "rocket scientists" aren't so smart after all.

Re:The way to fix it (1)

SWTP_OS9 (658064) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392205)

Well ther are some new telescope concepts that could on paper equal Hubble using ways to detect and componsate for the turblents and distorsion in the air. Basiaclly a laser is shined up and computer "induce a destortion" in the mirrors.

But my real question is why all of a sudden for NASA orginally was kicking and screaming NO WAY Hubble mission under NO condition to need to do it right now super quick? It need some gyros, battries and some of the replacement parts sitting in a warehouse but is good for a few years right now.

1) Is it they want to look like they are really doing something.

2) Wants the goverment to cough up more bucks. Since they lost a bit last go around.

3) Want to pull heat off of them due to a delay for the same problem that destroyed the last shuttle that went up. Ice falling and destroying the wing.

Re:The way to fix it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12392251)

NASA was not screaming it. GWB's appointee (o,keefe) was doing this. He, like his boss, lied about doing risk assessments, and even lieing about the commission's statements. Then he had the top employees (non-political appointees), back him up. Griffin has a science and engineering background. He knows the risks, and the value. This will almost certainly go through, unless pressure is brought from above.

Misread Title (2, Funny)

quantaman (517394) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392257)

I glanced at the title and read

NASA Preparing Manned Hubble Service Mission
as
NASA Preparing Manned Hubble Secret Mission

and thought, "gee if they're trying to keep it secret then why are they announcing it on /.?!"

Re:Misread Title (1)

Dr. GeneMachine (720233) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392326)

gee if they're trying to keep it secret then why are they announcing it on /.?!"

Easy. Everyone will think it is a dupe of a five year old article. Or simply bullshit.

The Hubble is dead, long live The James Webb! (4, Interesting)

True Grit (739797) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392266)

From the article:

There is no replacement for Hubble's visible-light acuity even in the serious planning stages.

Sigh. That's because we want to move *beyond* visible light to see farther into the past!

Its like this: You've got an old Ford Escort, but you've ordered a new supercharged Ford Mustang GT. Since its a custom order, it'll be a few months before it gets to you. Between now and then, does it make any sense to spend money keeping up the Escort, especially when money is tight?

I'm all for the fascinating pictures we get from Hubble, but the *really* interesting stuff lies in the infrared spectrum, beyond Hubble's sight. That's why IMO, if we can't do both, then we should stop wasting money to keep the Hubble up, and use that money to accelerate its replacement [wikipedia.org].

Re:The Hubble is dead, long live The James Webb! (1)

Slack3r78 (596506) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392566)

If the Escort is your only transportation in the meantime, absolutely. That's the situation we're in with Hubble.

Re:The Hubble is dead, long live The James Webb! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392690)

no, that doesn't make any sense. you should have bought a chevy :)

There's no reason we "can't" do both, except the short-sightedness of the average american taxpayer or politician. Kind of ironic considering we're talking about telescopes.

Re:The Hubble is dead, long live The James Webb! (1)

helioquake (841463) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392892)

First, the James Webb Space Telescope is not a replacement for the Hubble. The JWST is designed for IR astronomy; the HST is primarily for UV astronomy. They are complementary, but by no means the JWST is a replacement for the HST.

Re:The Hubble is dead, long live The James Webb! (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392912)

To further butcher your analogy, Imagine that your awesome new ford mustang GT is only capable of driving in cities and on highways. It is incapable of driving on rural roads for some reason or another (clearance?) Your old escort did fine in the rural areas, but wasn't as fast as your new car could be under ideal circumstances.

The question to ask is: Is deorbit significantly cheaper than reboost and repair. In other words, do not consider the whole cost of the mission to hubble, only the difference between deorbiting and upgrade/reboost is relevant, since the base cost of deorbit would have to be spent either way. Unless you're willing to take the (admittedly small) chance of hubble landing in a populated area.

The hubble has generated more science than the.... (4, Insightful)

voss (52565) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392644)

$100 billion dollar space station.

While Infrared light may generate alternate avenues of science, humans dont see in infrared. Hubble produces space results that Joe Sixpack can actually see or have his kids download for their school projects. Thats how NASA can get funding, produce results people can see and can benefit from.

The hubble telescope fires the imagination and inspires future generations of scientists. Hubble cost $2 billion to put up and only cost $500 million to service. Why not make the most of your investment.

Someone has sold us a myth that average people dont care about space exploration. This is bullcrap. They care when they feel like they are a part
of it. When they feel like NASA is just another government agency squandering money on stuff they dont understand, thats when NASA gets hacked.

Robo servicing vs. Shuttle servicing vs. Deorbit (5, Interesting)

SaveHubble (875949) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392739)

I've posted about this topic before (here: http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=146007 &cid=12230905 [slashdot.org], and here: http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=146007 &cid=12232506 [slashdot.org])

There are several important factors in deciding between them. Lets look at the pros and cons.

Cost:

1. Shuttle servicing will cost about $300M to fly the mission plus ~$1.5B-2B to keep the shuttle program and staff going for an extra 4-6 months. Total cost then is conservatively $2.3B.

2. Robotic Deorbit Only is estimated to cost about $850M, for development, launch, and operation of the vehicle.

3. Robotic servicing is expected to cost $1.4B for dev, launch, and operation through splashdown.

However(!) if we take option 1 or 2, we'll have to fly a 'robotic proving' mission around 2015 or so to enable missions to Moon and Mars. This could cost anywhere from $500-800M (likely closer to 800 if it's to be at all ambitious). So lets look at the total score-card:

Shuttle: $2.3B + $800M = $3.1 Billion
Deorbit: $850M + $800M = $1.65 Billion
Robotic: $1.4B - ~250M already spent = $1.15 Billion

So that was cost. Now lets look at education:

Doing another shuttle servicing mission will teach us very little. Sure, we'd learn some EVA techniques, management techniques, things like that. But nothing significant. That's why we'd need to launch a robotic proving mission in 2015.

Robotic Deorbit would teach us a lot about autonomous rendezvous (since my last post it's apparent that we need to work a little harder on that; DART bumped into its target, I hear). Bear in mind that craft had no forward-link commanding from the ground... it was entirely autonomous. It cost only $100-something million to dev, launch and "operate". These are lessons we need to learn to go to the Moon, and Mars.

Robotic Servicing would teach us a lot about the autonomous rendezvous and proximity operations (see above) since it's the same problem here as the robotic deorbit. It will also teach us a HUGE amount about ground-to-space tele-robotic operations. So much so that if it works we could be confident enough not to need an expensive proving mission later on. We'll be doing complex robotic tasks on things that were designed for humans (on space-station, everything's designed to be robot-friendly). We'll be pushing the envelope of our knowledge.

Don't let that put you off though. We're pushing the envelope on the ground here, right now. We've pushed it so far now that most tasks on the Hubble robotic mission will be trivial. We aim to push it far enough that ALL tasks will be trivial (or at most 'complex') by the time we launch. We have a robust capacity to re-plan and re-approach a problem on orbit. We have the advantage of time (see next pro/con) on our side. And we have contingency in case some more critical item fails before we launch. I believe that up to 30 days before launch we have the ability to re-manifest the cargo. Don't quote me on that figure though.

Now lets look at perhaps the most important feature of each mission: The quality of the result:

Some say a shuttle servicing mission will do a better job at servicing Hubble. This used to be the case. In looking at the robotic mission we had to give up some things. The STIS failed last summer, as some of you may remember. The robotics guys evaluated that task, and decided it would be too difficult. Many bolts in hard-to-reach places, etc. So that was dropped. However, I've recently heard on the wind that a Shuttle mission will only have a few days of EVA available between tile inspection and prep for landing. The shuttle mission will be forced to leave things out too, and the result is that the priorities we identified for the robotic mission are pretty much the same priorities we'd have for the shuttle mission.

Some argue that humans are far less dangerous for the survival of HST. Have you SEEN video of astronauts servicing Hubble? Instruments are bumped, connectors wrenched off, wire harnesses velcroed to the wrong place. It's not so pretty. With all respect, the job they have to do is monumental and it has to be done at lightning speed (due to EVA time limitations). The robot can take weeks or even months to do it. We can take our time, evaluate situations, make sure we understand our telemetry. The robot can do MUCH more pure motions than an astronaut. WFC3 and COS have to be inserted almost exactly straight to engage their guide rails. It takes two astronauts pushing in a coordinated way to insert it w/o jamming. The robot just commands a linear motion and it slips right in. Closing the aft shroud doors is a requirement to prevent light and debris entering the telescope. Astronauts have found that the door jams if you push it closed normally. It took two of them something like half and hour (again don't quote me) to close the doors on a prior mission. In the lab here at Goddard, we've shown that the robot can apply torques to the door as it closes to eliminate the jam. We can adapt much better than people writing most commentaries say. Astronauts may not have time to adapt.

Obviously there is no quality benefit to the de-orbit only option. Hubble will still be dying.

As for development status, the dexterous robots are already developend, built, and qualified for manned spaceflight. They were to be flown to the ISS, but we've "taken" them with a promise to build them two more.

The large grappling arm is to be built from the same joints as the dexterous arms with motors from space station arm heritage. These have flown before and work very well in space. We went to the guys in Canada because they're so far ahead in development (it's ready to go). The hard part is the vehicle development and tool development. Getting its mass down, getting the tools to interface the robot with HST. Things like that. We're on track and on schedule.

Anyway I've written enough here. It's my opinion that shuttle and robotic servicing will be of the same quality. Cost is a major difference, and I think it comes out clearly on the side of robotic servicing. Education gives a clear benefit to robotic servicing; we learn so much more from doing it robotically. Some say it's bad to take humans out of the loop and do it with robots. I guess they're just not familiar with the architecture. Humans will be controlling and monitoring everything. Many operations are best done manually, without scripts. For that we'll need humans (probably astronauts) here on the ground.

Any other opinions?

Re:Robo servicing vs. Shuttle servicing vs. Deorbi (1)

RubberDogBone (851604) | more than 8 years ago | (#12392871)

3. Robotic servicing is expected to cost $1.4B for dev, launch, and operation through splashdown.

Splashdown?

My understanding was that the robot would either stay with the Hubble (although the mass would probably mess up the telescope's gyros) or it would be simply dumped overboard and eventually burn up.

Preliminary robot designs have all been spindly. I doubt any part of it would survive to actually splashdown and there's no need to recover the thing intact. Just make another one later.

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