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Upgraded Hubble To Be 90 Times As Powerful

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the new-glasses-and-oh-here's-your-binoculars dept.

Space 194

The feed brings us a New Scientist review of the repairs and new instruments that astronauts will bring to the Hubble Space Telescope next August (unless the launch is delayed). The resulting instrument will be 90 times as powerful as Hubble was designed to be when launched, and 60% more capable than it was after its flawed optics were repaired in 1993. If the astronauts pull it off — and the mission is no slam-dunk — the space telescope should be able to image galaxies back to 400 million years after the Big Bang.

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194 comments

Huh, I must have blinked. (2, Interesting)

Hellad (691810) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965294)

Last I heard, it was being dumped. Anyone want to give some info on when they changed their mind re. the hubble's fate?

Re:Huh, I must have blinked. (5, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965400)

When the new director took over one of his first acts was to reinstate the Hubble upgrade. Really it's one of the most cost effective missions that NASA can do from a science per dollar perspective and one of the few ones that needs the shuttle before it's decommissioned.

Hubble: Right answer to wrong question (1, Interesting)

patio11 (857072) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965638)

>>
Really it's one of the most cost effective missions that NASA can do from a science per dollar perspective
>>

The relevent question, though, is whether its one of the most cost effective things *we* can do from a science-per-dollar perspective. And it's not. $1.5 billion to launch. $350 million a year to keep operational. And for what? Pretty pictures of far away balls of gas and, maybe, if we're lucky, a hint of a large rock orbiting the balls of gas.

Let's bust out the government's $135 billion yearly R&D budget. What could we do with an extra $350 million? Well, let me present you with a variety of options. We could double our R&D spending on malaria and TB, working to save several hundred thousand children a year who die from one of the two. Maybe they're not as photogenic as stars many light years away, though. OK, forget the kids.

We could spend the $350 million paying for open source software to be developed. That would pay for, conservatively, hundreds of projects, or a few flagships with the impact of Apache or Firefox. One of them could even develop stunning vistas from distant galaxies, since apparently people think that is an important use of the taxpayer's dollars.

I'm personally skeptical about solar power but, hey, for $350 million you could fund about a dozen projects a year looking into both radical new materials to use and iterations on the existing stuff, trying to make it cost-competitive with cheap coal.

If exploring new frontiers makes you misty, you could just about double our oceanographic research budget with a cool $350 million. We've pissed away billions trying to get a closer look at a dead environment which is terribly hostile to human life and which might include a few drops of water here and there. Instead, for a few million we could do in-depth study of unique organisms who robust, exciting environment and which most certainly includes water. And if you're the "well we've got to find a way off this rock!" Slashdot contingent who has read one too many sci-fi novels, your $350 billion would also count against improving our ability to survive in hostile environments.

Speaking of ecosystems, want to see if an off-world colony is EVER going to be viable? For $350 million you could restart the BioDome project. If you can solve that issue here, you can always worry about launch vehicles later, but if you can't, then all space research in the world won't get you what you want.

Yeah yeah, I know, I know -- "Space isn't the biggest waste of money in the budget!" I'm sure it isn't, but being less-than-maximally-wasteful is not a ringing endorsement of your favorite program.

Re:Hubble: Right answer to wrong question (5, Insightful)

hdparm (575302) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965674)

It's not bloody pictures! It's seeing proof that we have our maths right.

Re:Hubble: Right answer to wrong question (1)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965720)

It's not bloody pictures! It's seeing proof that we have our maths right.
 
Or wrong.

Re:Hubble: Right answer to wrong question (1)

Fourier404 (1129107) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965768)

Parent is not off topic, I've seen similarly connected comments on other stories with +5 insightful on them. Don't mod down just because you (and I) disagree with him.

We've already got the telescope up there. To let it die would be a bigger waste of the money. And the "Space isn't the biggest waste of money in the budget" one is a valid argument. Instead of spending 15 minutes convincing nobody to stop spending a few hundred million, you could make people aware of the billions being wasted elsewhere and instantly win converts.

Re:Hubble: Right answer to wrong question (5, Interesting)

AaronLawrence (600990) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965810)

The problem is that for the cost of a single shuttle maintenance mission to Hubble you could build and launch a new telescope.

Re:Hubble: Right answer to wrong question (4, Interesting)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966752)

"The problem is that for the cost of a single shuttle maintenance mission to Hubble you could build and launch a new telescope."

That may be true but there also may be benefits in learning to repair what we have, that go beyond merely the "launch and trash" philosophy, i.e. when resources are limited. What kinds of new technologies will be spawned to learn how to repair existing stuff in space and what will be learned I think is just as valuable since sooner or later we will have to learn whether others want it or not.

Re:Hubble: Right answer to wrong question (2, Informative)

l1m3house (1128815) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966762)

interesting : from http://www.worldspaceflight.com/america/shuttles/overview.htm [worldspaceflight.com] i get $500m. does that seem right? so how much do folk think a new hubble would cost to design, build, launch?

Re:Hubble: Right answer to wrong question (0, Troll)

patio11 (857072) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965866)

Thanks for the vote of confidence. I swear, I burn more karma on NASA than any other reason. And given that I voted for Dubya twice, am browsing in IE7 right now, *and* run Vista at home, that is really saying something.

I don't agree that pointing to the billions being wasted elsewhere is necessarily more effective. You know what will the defenders of those projects will say? "Don't look at at my hobbyhorse, look over there at NASA, they're practically setting billions afire." And you're both right, but if I take you at face value, then the budget just continues to balloon outwards. Similarly, keeping the Hubble alive because we've already sunk billions is just trying to justify sunk costs despite the fact that we aren't getting a positive marginal return on our investments. The hole just keeps getting deeper, because we won't stop digging.

Re:Hubble: Right answer to wrong question (4, Insightful)

AdmiralWeirdbeard (832807) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966316)

My favorite part of all of this is that your argument basically consists of an unsupported claim that hubble accomplishes nothing more than taking pretty pictures, followed by what is essentially an exploration of the opportunity cost of funding hubble's repairs. Exactly what kind of argument is that? Of course $350 million could be well spent on other areas of research, that's not an argument against the repairs, that's the inherent nature of the decision. By choosing A, you necessarily lose out on options B, C, D, etc.
What you have not done, at all, in either of your posts here is offer a single reason that hubble is undeserving of these funds. Clearly, you think hubble is a wast of money. Clearly its a lot of money and other areas of research could benefit from getting it instead. ...and?

Re:Hubble: Right answer to wrong question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21965870)

What could we do with an extra $350 million?
Moderator on crack alert.

You're correct. There are plenty of other things that can be done with that money that would be more cost effective. Sadly, with $3 trillion disappearing without a trace from the DoD alone prior to 9/11/2001, it seems to be at least a little worthwhile in comparison.

Re:Hubble: Right answer to wrong question (4, Informative)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966394)

What could we do with an extra $350 million?

We could finance about 7 hours of the war in Iraq?

Re:Hubble: Right answer to wrong question (1)

eharvill (991859) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966404)

$350 million a year to keep operational.
Could someone please explain to me why something in space would require this kind of money to maintain??? I mean, it's up there, presumably running on it's own computers, power, navigation, etc. I could definitely see some costs down here to gather data, run computations, etc, but $350 million a year??? What am I missing in this picture?

Re:Huh, I must have blinked. (1)

hylander_sb (181045) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965650)

Also, Congress allocated the funds for SM4 as a specific line item (about $380 million, don't quote me on that) and Babs Mikulski wasn't going to let NASA spend it on something different. Since the robotic mission was nixed, the shuttle mission was re-evaluated and the risks accepted.

Re:Huh, I must have blinked. (4, Informative)

Strider- (39683) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965654)

Just prior to the "Return To Flight" mission after the Columbia mission, I had the opportunity to talk to two retired shuttle astronauts, one of whom had been involved in the first Hubble servicing mission. I asked them whether given the opportunity, they'd be willing to fly another mission to the Hubble even without the post-Columbia modifications. To a man, they both said "Absolutely, In a heartbeat." In their eyes, the Hubble was one of the few truly useful missions performed by the space shuttle.

Re:Huh, I must have blinked. (2)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966278)

Their answer may not have anything to do with Hubble.

I am quite certain that former astronauts (and prospective ones) when asked if they would do a garbage cleanup mission in orbit would say "Absolutely, In a heartbeat."

I would, wouldn't you?

(thats not to say hubble isn't worthy at all, it has produced some of the greatest images of space seen so far)

Re:Huh, I must have blinked. (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966780)

When asked if they would be willing to fly another mission just for fun. To a man, they both said "Absolutely, In a heartbeat."

Re:Huh, I must have blinked. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21965658)

It's so they can finally take pix of the Moon Landing sites and disprove the hoax-claimers.

But the i486 processors remain !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21965670)


But the i486 processors remain !! I'ld have pull the boards and put in a Pentium w/MMX Tecnology (TM) at least !! Just think: U AND V pipes !! MMX !! The things you can do with those !!

Stop, colleberate and listen! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21965298)

Hammertime! [thepounder.com]

Yes, but... (0, Offtopic)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965300)

does it run SETI@Home?

Re:Yes, but... (1)

stonedcat (80201) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965464)

It lives in space, it never goes home. ^_^

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21965596)

no, it runs SETI@370miles-altitude

Re:Yes, but... (2, Informative)

hylander_sb (181045) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965630)

It does have a 486 on board so if you can get the Flight Software guys to add it in, it could.

Slam Dunk??? (-1, Offtopic)

gc8005 (733938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965318)

Let's invade!

Awesome! (1, Interesting)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965326)

I downloaded some pic's from the Hubble/Nasa sights the other day and I can't wait to see what this updated baby can pull off...

Puuurdyyy

Re:Awesome! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21965382)

Advertising from other planets...

Re:Awesome! (4, Interesting)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965436)

You know, almost all of those astronomical images are artificially colored and enhanced to maximize their ascetic appeal. Have a look at some of the various images of the cat's eye nebula to see. A quick Google turns up 5 different colorings:

http://www.daviddarling.info/images/Cats_Eye_Nebula.jpg [daviddarling.info]
http://www.uni-sw.gwdg.de/~panders/Images/AstroImages/03_CatEyeNebula.jpg [uni-sw.gwdg.de]
http://www.spacetoday.org/images/Hubble/HubbleBeauty/CatsEyeNebulaNASA.jpg [spacetoday.org]
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5a/NGC6543.jpg [wikimedia.org]
http://www.daviddarling.info/images/Cats_Eye_Nebula_2.jpg [daviddarling.info]

The interpretation of the horsehead nebula is at least consistent (most of the time), but there is still plenty of artistic license being taken.

http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/52238main_MM_image_feature_89_jw4.jpg [nasa.gov]
http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/45506main_MM_Image_Feature_73_rs4.jpg [nasa.gov]
http://www.geocities.com/scott_metz/alternity/graphics/horsehead_nebula.jpg [geocities.com]
http://www.sidewalk-astronomy-club.com/img/horsehead-nebula.jpg [sidewalk-a...y-club.com]
http://www.fourthdimensionastroimaging.com/sitebuilder/images/horsehead-712x571.jpg [fourthdime...maging.com]

I was sort of disappointed when I found that out...

Re:Awesome! (0)

i.of.the.storm (907783) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965480)

Just fyi, the word you're looking for is aesthetic. Ascetic is a synonym for spartan or abstinence from wordly pleasures. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asceticism [wikipedia.org]

Re:Awesome! (4, Insightful)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965518)

The images have to be artificially colored because more often than not the images are put together from images outside the visible wavelength. None of those images would be interesting to humans in the original wavelengths.

Re:Awesome! (2, Funny)

CaptnMArk (9003) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966254)

They are very interesting, just not visible.

Re:Artistic License (1)

AndGodSed (968378) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965522)

I knew that the Images where artificially colored, but I did not realise it was altered that much. It is a bit of a let down, but still, I think it is impressive.

Close to where we stay is an observatory, I plan on going there on the 30th to have a look at the Mars Impact, if that will happen at all btw., and I hope to get a "real" look at some of the gems in the sky...

Re:Awesome! (5, Funny)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965546)

I was sort of disappointed when I found that out...
Wait till you find out that the visible spectrum is artificially coloured by human vision.

Re:Awesome! (1)

Lorenzarius (765215) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965754)

That second to last "Horsehead Nebula" photo (http://www.sidewalk-astronomy-club.com/img/horsehead-nebula.jpg) is actually a photo of the Eagle Nebula [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Awesome! (5, Informative)

themacks (1197889) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965820)

You may appreciate this then: http://hubblesite.org/gallery/behind_the_pictures/meaning_of_color/index.php [hubblesite.org]

From the site:

Taking color pictures with the Hubble Space Telescope is much more complex than taking color pictures with a traditional camera. For one thing, Hubble doesn't use color film -- in fact, it doesn't use film at all. Rather, its cameras record light from the universe with special electronic detectors. These detectors produce images of the cosmos not in color, but in shades of black and white.

Finished color images are actually combinations of two or more black-and-white exposures to which color has been added during image processing.

The colors in Hubble images, which are assigned for various reasons, aren't always what we'd see if we were able to visit the imaged objects in a spacecraft. We often use color as a tool, whether it is to enhance an object's detail or to visualize what ordinarily could never be seen by the human eye

Re:Awesome! (3, Insightful)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965856)

The coloration of such images is thought of as being as much the artistic expression of the astronomer in question as it is clarification of the image.

The thing is, without coloration, we wouldn't be able to see the various structures. Astronomers probably would, being trained, but not us normal folk. Besides, who wants to look at dull greyscale when you can spice it up with some color? The aim of making the image easier to interpret is achieved, and it looks pretty too.

Mostly correct! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21965362)

ACS is partially functional and still able to conduct science observations, a circuit board repair will make it fully functional. Also the mirror was never fixed, the science instruments correct for the defect. Other then that the article appears correct.

Usual editorial fuck up (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21965370)

and 60% more capable than it was after its flawed optics were repaired in 1993.
Article says compared to the ACS of the *third* servicing mission, which if you know your stuff, was in March 2002.

Red shift balls (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21965378)

>> 400 million years after the Big Bang

That's about how long it feels like it's been since my last big bang.

What's a bang? (4, Funny)

mi (197448) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965566)

You, insensitive clod!

Re:What's a bang? (2, Funny)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966766)

It's the second character in a shell script.

Re:Red shift balls (5, Funny)

Vskye (9079) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965714)

That's about how long it feels like it's been since my last big bang.

Got married didn't ya. :)

Re:Red shift balls (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965898)

Well, you could always ask somebody to come over and play with your Wii.

Red? (1)

vnaughtdeltat (1167485) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965934)

I think you mean blue shift.

Re:Red shift balls (1)

PNutts (199112) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966704)

Wouldn't that be a blue shift?

Was Hubble worth it? (2, Interesting)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965402)

I am having doubts as to whether Hubble was worth it. My gut feeling tells me that the monies used in the entire Hubble project would have changed lots of American lives in a big positive way. What have we got out of it that is worth all those billions spent so far? Can somebody convince me?

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21965414)

My gut feeling tells me that the monies used in the entire Hubble project would have changed lots of American lives in a big positive way. What have we got out of it that is worth all those billions spent so far? Can somebody convince me?

Agreed. The money for Hubble would have been much better spent bailing out failing mortgage lenders and paying iraqi insurgents a daily wage to be non-violent. [npr.org]

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21965422)

You're totally right, we should have used that wasted Hubble money to pay for more people to go to Iraq instead.

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21965426)

It's protecting us from illegal aliens... in space!

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21965428)

But the pictures make pretty screensavers!

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (5, Insightful)

anthonys_junk (1110393) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965432)

The fundamental problem with your statement is that you assume that the $$$ would otherwise have been used to change lives in a big positive way.

Put very simply, through science, we gain an understanding of the world, and universe around us, how it operates and how we can interact more effectively with it.

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965792)

Put very simply though, that still means basically nothing. I have not, and I'd venture to guess the average Joe, has not benefited directly from Hubble. It has made precious little impact on my life. Maybe one or two pictures.

I have nothing against science, but I think it's a valid question to ask. People seemed to ask the same question about, say, the Star Wars missile defense thing, or even the current missile defense thing... even the slashdot-storified commercial jetliner defense system. Apparently, there's more opposition to spending money on practical things to defend from missiles (with, of course, the typical question, "has it ever happened before?") than to spending money in hopes that taking cool pictures of very distant things with an admittedly wicked cool telescope will somehow profit mankind eventually in some way.

Dunno. Personally, if I had to pay for something, I'd rather pay for the commercial jet thing. I'll probably fly on a commercial jet within the next year. Probably won't need anything involved with hubble anytime soon. Isn't NASA government funded, which means, tax funded?

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (4, Insightful)

WaZiX (766733) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966134)

You could argue the same thing about all fundamental research... But how much of todays practical applications would have been discovered if we hadn't sponsored research in quantum physics?

Now of course the direct link between Hubble telescope and daily applications is less obvious, but it did determine the Hubble constant (well a more accurate estimate) and determined that the expansion of the universe was accelerating... Now you can challenge the usefulness of these discoveries all you can, but I somehow believe that in the long run, understanding the physics that rule this universe will generate vastly more practical applications (and revenues) then the current (and already beaten) missile defense system...

In the long run we're all dead, but that doesn't mean we should focus solely on short term objectives (and I'm very very glad our ancestors didn't)/

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21965440)

Only solving overpopulation is going to improve lives.

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (3, Funny)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965896)

Only solving overpopulation is going to improve lives.
This is slashdot and that problem has already been solved here. Next?

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (5, Informative)

Karthikkito (970850) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965490)

You've been modded flamebait by someone, but it's a legitimate question that many people have when looking at instruments designed for pure science and discovery. There are quite a few really good arguments about why the Hubble should be around which are based on the science mission, but I'll give you an example of positive spinoffs that affect our daily lives. Google will give you many more.

-----
"NASA's TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER PROGRAM FOR TEE EARLY DETECTION OF BREAST CANCER", available at ieeexplore.ieee.org/iel4/5216/14105/00646457.pdf?tp=&isnumber=&arnumber=646457

One NASA-driven development has already found its way into clinical use as part of the LORAD; stereotactic needle
biopsy system. The charge-coupled device (CCD) camera used in this system was originally designed and built for use
in the Hubble Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, and provides a high-resolution, high-contrast image in real time
to guide a physician in the accurate collection of a biopsy sample from suspicious imaged breast lesions. The Hubble
CCD, coupled with a high-speed phosphor screen, gives greatly increased sensitivity, contrast and resolution over
previous methods, The result is a less traumatic, lower cost ($800 vs. $2,500 typically for surgical biopsy), non-surgical biopsy procedure for the more than 500,000 American women who undergo breast biopsies each year.
-------

Here, Hubble directly increased the ability for us to find cancers. When you look at a dollar amount, (2500-800)*500000 gives us $0.85 billion per year. Note that this article was published in 1996; today, mammograms and biopsies are much more common. To keep things simple, if we assume a constant number of patients, the Hubble CCD alone has directly resulted in cost savings of $9.35 billion (let alone lives saved). Also note that the cost of scalpel biopsies is mostly based on labor, and so would not have dropped much beyond the $2500 level; CCD's have become very inexpensive (relative to costs in 1996) and so the savings would actually be significantly larger than calculated here.

Anyone know the true cost of a non-surgical biopsy today?

If you gave me $1.5 billion for breast cancer... (0)

patio11 (857072) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965890)

(and $350 million in operating costs per year), I'm betting you I could have developed that technology without having had to blast anything into orbit. This is the problem with all of the "NASA once had a worthwhile spinoff, therefore it is worthwhile" -- just fund the spinoffs directly and you could do it for a thousandth the price.

I like Tang as much as the next guy, but you don't ever need to blast someone into orbit to produce Tang.

What, besides launching satellites (which, thankfully, can be done without public funding), has NASA ever produced which provides its benefit *because* it is not on earth, not *in spite* of it not being on earth?

Bullcra (1)

hung_himself (774451) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965904)

The Hubble no more gave us CCD's than the Apollo program gave us Tang...

There was a definite need for CCD imaging whether or not the Hobbled was built. If there was a $9.35 billion value for live imaging of breast tumors then it would have been researched and developed regardless, and more efficiently than by putting up a huge mirror into space. It's not like no one thought of the technology besides space telescope supporters

Mind you, I'm not necessarily knocking the Rubble telescope - that I leave for the astronomers to argue - but let's not kid ourselves with science spinoffs and hidden efficiencies.

Re:Bullcra (3, Insightful)

Repossessed (1117929) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965968)

And if that money had been spent in the private sector, mamograms would be patented by Pfizer, and cost 5 times as much as the old method.

Re:Bullcra (2, Insightful)

hung_himself (774451) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966002)

More likely, the money would have been spent by NIH to develop the technology, and then have it patented by Pfizer, and cost 5 times as much as the old method.

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (5, Interesting)

jdigriz (676802) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965556)

Wikipedia says the cumulative cost of the Hubble program has been 6.5 billion dollars. The population of the United States is approximately 300 million people. That means that the Hubble over its entire lifespan cost every man, woman and child in the United States $21.67 each. So no, all the monies spent on it would not have changed lots of American lives in a big positive way. Considering that all that money was paid over the course of the last 18 years, that means each person paid the equivalent of a little over a dollar per year for the wonderful pictures and discoveries it made. So, are the secrets of the universe, or even just pretty pictures worth a third of a cent per day? I think so. 6.5 billion dollars in the hands of one person is a lot of money. 6.5 billion dollars spread across 300 million people over 20 years is practically nothing. If you want to consider real money, consider the > 450 billion dollars spent over the last 5 years on the Iraq war, or the 450 Billion dollar Defense budget spent every year which doesn't even include war operations.

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (1)

kongit (758125) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965738)

While I agree that we are spending too much money in iraq, but the defense budget is not necessarily a bad thing. Throughout history the most prosperous nations have usually been the ones with the most powerful military. This is because security has a great influence on trade. If I want to invest my money I want to do it in a safe place so I don't have to gamble on losing all my money due to armed conflict. Now money alone is not a guarantee to military prowess, but it does give an abstract idea. So I think that the military budget might be returning more money in trading then it is using. However there is really no way to tell. Yet knowing how much we spend on our military, I am in no fear of a foreign nation invading my home. Of course there are still terrorists, but I am more scared of homegrown criminals. Overall the side benefits of have a well funded military more then outweigh its costs.

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (1, Insightful)

Fourier404 (1129107) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965836)

Sure, I agree that defense needs to be well funded (I'm looking into attending the naval academy in '09), but since the cold war ended it seems that we didn't decrease spending sufficiently to reflect that. Currently we are the source of over half the world's military spending. We spend almost ten times the next biggest spender (Britain, coming in at 70B versus our 623B), and double the EU as a whole, despite their slightly larger GDP. While this ensures military supremacy, it also makes us look bad, and leaves less money for other stuff.

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (1)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966674)

"While I agree that we are spending too much money in iraq, but the defense budget is not necessarily a bad thing."

At least if they are going to spend the money in the way they are now, they should change it back to what it was before the marketers got a hold of it in 1947 - the War Department. A lot more honest.

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (0, Redundant)

Chris Tucker (302549) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965796)

"That means that the Hubble over its entire lifespan cost every man, woman and child in the United States $21.67 each."

So, that works out to what? 4 Big Macs, give or take?

Yeah. you know what? The beauty of the Hubble images, seeing the glories of the Universe, revelling in the knowledge revealed.

Beats the goddamn HELL out of having a paper bag with 4 hamburgers in it. I can eat those burgers, and a day later, I'm hungry again.

The Hubble images will satisfy my soul for decades to come.

Hell, I'll happily send NASA another US$20 or so, to help pay for the servicing mission.

And to the original parent commenter, if you can't understand what Hubble has meant to the people of the US and of the Earth, you'll never understand.

"We're all of us in the gutter, but some of us look at the stars."

Enjoy your grubbing about in your gutter, I have better things to do than reply to you further.

I have stars to look at. [stsci.edu]

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (0, Flamebait)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965932)

If you want to consider real money, consider the > 450 billion dollars spent over the last 5 years on the Iraq war, or the 450 Billion dollar Defense budget spent every year which doesn't even include war operations.
Pictures of faraway things - $0.003/day
Dead Iraqi women and children every day - Priceless

Investing in science makes sense (2, Interesting)

Siener (139990) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965960)

I came in here to say almost exactly what the parent post said - If you had taken all the Hubble money and rather spent it on some social program it would come down to basically $1 per US citizen per year over the last 20 years.

Money spent on pure science is usually a good investment because the returns are cumulative. The new knowledge that we gain can potentially benefit the human race in all perpetuity.

E.g. Of the immense amount of technology that gives you the ability to post here in Slashdot large portions was funded by public money. Yes, you could rather have used that money to feed a few hungry people, but I would argue that the human race as a whole would be worse off for it.

Investing in other science makes more sense... (1)

hung_himself (774451) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966118)

That much money could have funded a lot of basic research and training in labs throughout the US had it been given to NIH or NSF which seems to me a better way to spend the money.

But, if as is probably the case, that the money was only available to science in the form of the Hubble due to defense tie-ins, NASA PR, or some other political factors, then I agree that the money was better spent than being sunk into corporate welfare programs...

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (1)

Josef Meixner (1020161) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966320)

You even have to subtract about 500 million dollars from the 6,5 billion, as that is the contribution of the ESA to the mission. (See FAQ item 10 [spacetelescope.org] (that page also must have been made in space, because who on Earth would sort a FAQ in reverse order and not even put anchors to the items on it)). So about $20 for each in the US and below $1 for us Europeans, not that it makes a difference and I fully agree with you.

Makes war look bad value for money by comparison (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21966678)

I had no idea that the Hubble program was so cheap at $6.5B.

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (1, Flamebait)

jo42 (227475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965660)

Now just imagine what all of the several hundreds of billions of dollars pissed away in Iraq could have of done. The Hubble has cost a mere month or two of Iraq wastage.

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (1)

wwwillem (253720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965784)

why did I yesterday give away all my mod points ???

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965802)

Can somebody convince me?
Legitimate question. But before you throw away the Hubble, take a long cold hard look at the international space station, something NASA is pushing to decommision anyway in a few years. Something where in my opinion the money could have been better allocated.

Also, compare it to the triumph of the Voyager mission, and the moon landing. Two missions that I feel advanced us as a nation. I do believe as you peruse the totality of groundbreaking images and science that have come from Hubble you will see that it compares favorably. Also, remember the technical triumph that was overcome by managing to repair a mirror that had a fatal manufacturing defect. Something that as a nerd, I find inspiring in itself, and is taken for granted everytime an image is released to the public.

So I think while it is worthy to point a finger, be willing to point it in a judicious manner.

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (1)

wwwillem (253720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965888)

I am having doubts as to whether Hubble was worth it

I still could agree with that. But I don't thing you should compare it with what that money could have done "on earth", but how it compares to other space projects. And then I personally think that the Hubble project as a whole was much more useful than let's say a shuttle bringing some fresh food to the space station and getting its garbage back.

Or a bit stronger, what was a better space program, the Hubble telescope or putting a couple of guys on the moon? I think the telescope. The moon trip was exiting, but it involved a lot of ego tripping.

But I maybe could agree with you if you would say that _any_ money spent on space exploration would better be given to education and health. I explicitly don't say "health care", because that's an even worse, useless money drain than space. I digress....

Yes, as mankind we're wasting money on useless, nonsense and horrible things (in that order: politics, porn, war ??? or shuffle if you like :-) ... left, right and center. I don't think space exploration is the worst of those and within that frame, I think the Hubble telescope was one of the best. Even better than driving a mini hummer over the surface of Mars. :-)

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (2, Informative)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965920)

I think you'll find that NASA, and all its associated costs, (aside from the flying turkey that is the ISS), take up less than 0.02% of the total US budget. It might be smaller than that, this is from memory, I can't re-find the source, which was a newspaper.

Its a tiny, tiny amount though. The problem is that the space program has always been blown by the political winds. People remember that once, long ago, it did indeed consume vast amounts of cash, and they assume this continues today. NASA then and NASA now are somewhat different however. Back then they were expanding the frontiers of mankind into space, now they spend their time trying to cope with a lowest bidder built shuttle that, far from being a rapid turnaround cheap delivery system, has to be completely rebuilt each time it lands, and has no chance of *ever* matching the stated aims of the project. That it is more expensive to use than the 'old fashioned' rockets it was supposed to replace is just a joke.

Oh yes, and the ISS is at its current altitude not because NASA wanted it so low, but because they wanted to use the shuttle to service it. So now the ISS is in such a low orbit its subject to drag from the atmosphere and has to be boosted back into orbit periodically. This low orbit reduces the useful science that can be done on board considerably.

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (1)

hax0r_this (1073148) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966136)

Whatever trivial little social goods you might be able to do with the 6.5 billion that hubble has cost over its lifetime are far outweighed by the increase in our understanding of the universe we live in that hubble has brought about.

Just think if we took all the money being spent on science around the world and spent it on food instead. We could fix world hunger! Thats what I call a long term solution. /sarcasm

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (1)

mjorkerina (1158683) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966528)

Hubble certainly is more worth the money than the stupid International Space Station. If you try to find space missions that cost money for nothing, Hubble shouldn't be your priority.

Re:Was Hubble worth it? (2, Insightful)

sqldr (838964) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966778)

The telescope DID improve American and non-American lives in a big positive way by getting us closer to understanding the universe we live in - something that most people would like to understand.

"big positive way" doesn't necessarily equate to giving people handouts or curing diabetes. If all we ever spent our money on was egalitarianism, our lives would be so boring we wouldn't see the point. I'm very happy that money has been spent on hubble, and its findings never cease to excite me.

Pictures smictures... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21965438)

Can it or can it not fry people like ants under a magnifying glass.

That's what we want to know.

what "90 times more powerful means" (5, Informative)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965446)

Most people think the magnification of a telescope is the most important number, whereas astronomers are typically more interested in the light-gathering power, as measured by the aperture. What's really being increased by a factor of 90 is neither the magnification nor the sensitivity, it's apparently the product of the sensitivity and the area of the field of view. The argument seems to be that this is an important figure of merit if you're doing a survey of faint objects, such as very distant galaxies.

Re:what "90 times more powerful means" (1)

rhizome (115711) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965648)

astronomers are typically more interested in the light-gathering power

Isn't this just a fancy way of saying they're interested in capturing fainter objects?

Re:what "90 times more powerful means" (1)

arodland (127775) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965734)

Well... vaguely, yes. If you get more light in the front end and you keep everything else the same then you can look at dimmer objects. Or you can capture an image in a shorter period of time. Or you can boost SNR to produce less-noisy images. Or, equipment permitting, you can produce higher-resolution images. Or some combination of the above so long as the numbers all add up.

Re:what "90 times more powerful means" (1)

chebucto (992517) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965694)

So they're increasing the field of view: that's equivalent to installing a new eyepiece in a amateur telescope, correct?

Anyway, if the HST is going to be 90% more powerful and 60% more capable, by my calculation that means it'll be 304% more awesome. Three w00ts for NASA!

Re:what "90 times more powerful means" (0)

zonker (1158) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966112)

imagine a beowulf... nevermind. i can still remember 10 years ago the first time someone posted that joke...

Re:what "90 times more powerful means" (1)

flappinbooger (574405) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966776)

Maybe it's just a hard drive upgrade, and "90 times" is all NASA marketing-speak.

60% better than the 2002 Hubble, not 1993 (5, Informative)

CraigParticle (523952) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965586)

The summary is a bit misleading about the 60%.

FTA: "HST will be about 60% more powerful than it was right after the third servicing mission, before ACS and STIS failed."

The 1993 servicing mission generally restored the designed capabilities of the Hubble, the so-called "factor of 90" that the article mentions. Major new improvements and capabilities came with each servicing mission, culminating in the March 2002 servicing mission that installed the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS).

The upcoming installation of the new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) will improve the combined sensitivity and field of view by 60% over the Hubble as it was after March 2002 (and before ACS died).

To be fair... by the same metric, modern ground-based telescopes with large format CCD and infrared arrays are on the order of 100 times more powerful than they were in 1990 as well. In the near infrared, the gains are closer to a factor of 1000!

What Big Bang? (3, Funny)

Swampash (1131503) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965666)

The Earth is only 6,000 years old. Mike Huckabee wouldn't lie to me.

Re:What Big Bang? (1)

britneys 9th husband (741556) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965876)

It's not a lie if he honestly believes what he says to be the truth.

Re:What Big Bang? (3, Insightful)

WaZiX (766733) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966140)

It's not a lie if he honestly believes what he says to be the truth.
Indeed, it's called gullibility.

The next mission (0, Redundant)

arotenbe (1203922) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965696)

Let me guess: the next mission after this one will upgrade the telescope to be able to see up to 300 million years before the Big Bang! Even better, it has the same chance of succeeding on budget and schedule as the mission the article describes!

1.6 (2, Insightful)

tsa (15680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965880)

So actually it's going to be only 1.6 times better than before, because before the first big repair to improve the optics the thing was mostly unusable. Am I right?

Designed as flawed? (2, Insightful)

Urkki (668283) | more than 6 years ago | (#21965952)

The resulting instrument will be 90 times as powerful as Hubble was designed to be when launched, and 60% more capable than it was after its flawed optics were repaired in 1993.
Is it just my reading comprehension, or does above text actually claim, that Hubble was designed to be launched with a faulty optics, that optics repair then improved it some 30 times, and now the new upgrades will improve it 3 times more...?

Or, to put it the other way, is this improvement actually 60% (still a lot!) over current situation, and the "90 times as powerful" is basically just bullshit hype?

Re:Designed as flawed? (1)

ecavalli (1216014) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966294)

Is it just my reading comprehension, or does above text actually claim, that Hubble was designed to be launched with a faulty optics, that optics repair then improved it some 30 times, and now the new upgrades will improve it 3 times more...?

I think, more realistically, the upgrades put in place were the result of technological advancements over time, not that the original telescope was poorly designed.

Now that a bit more time has passed, we can add even more technological advancements. Go science!

Re:Designed as flawed? (1)

Urkki (668283) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966384)

the upgrades put in place were the result of technological advancements over time, not that the original telescope was poorly designed.
No, the design was ok, but making it was seriously screwed up [wikipedia.org] . The first "upgrade" was not upgrade, it was a repair kit to fix the screw up and meet the original design. And now this designed upgrade is an actual upgrade over the original design, and it's "just" 60% improvement, very nice but a far cry from the claimed 90 times improvement over original design.

Re:Designed as flawed? (2, Interesting)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966472)

It wasn't designed to have bad optics. The big-name private contractor who built the mirror screwed up because they misassembled one of the instruments used in manufacturing it. This sort of thing happens all the time of course - recall that the Genesis capsule cratered in the desert because Lockheed-Martin installed an accelerometer backwards and skipped the test which would've spotted the mistake.

The REAL Question (1)

AbsoluteXyro (1048620) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966038)

Will the Hubble Space Telescope once again become the most important scientific tool for space exploration? Why yes, but, the real question is... will it blend?

Re:The REAL Question (2, Informative)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966416)

Why yes, but, the real question is... will it blend?

2007 just called, they want their viral marketing Internet meme back.

planning for James Webb Space Telescope upgrades? (1)

xristo70 (1184699) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966350)

Hubble is definately one of the great science success stories of the past decades. Remember it would have been a complete disaster if the initial mirror errors discovered just after it was placed in orbit could not have been corrected. And also now (again) thanks to the shuttle upgrades it will give much more crucial science. I worry a bit with this about the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be much further from earth (Sun-Earth Lagrange point, if I am not mistaken). Anybody know what NASA's longterm plan for JWST upgrades is (probably somewhere around 2015-2025)? Hope for a fail-safe design? Robotic missions?

How much more would be required to see planets? (1)

PKJedi (189387) | more than 6 years ago | (#21966502)

How much more would be required to see planets outside our solar system?
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