Moon Society Response to NASA Decision
in Favor of a 2008 Hubble Servicing Mission

2006.10.31 The Moon Society applauds today's Announcement that NASA would indeed mount a Hubble Servicing Mission.

When it was first announced, in the wake of the Columbia disintegration, that NASA, then under Administrator Sean O'Keefe, would not risk another Hubble repair and service mission, The Moon Society issued a position paper on March 5, 2004 calling on NASA to reconsider.

We pointed out that NASA had committed itself to opening an outpost on the Moon and sending human crews to explore Mars, endeavors that would involve and embrace risk. It was also important, we stated, to keep Hubble operating until its replacement, The James Webb Space Telescope, had been launched and was fully operational.

More people worldwide have been awed and educated by Hubble's continuing output of stunning photos than by anything else the agency is has done in its 50 years. This one instrument is the single most important anchor of continuing public support for space.

Moreover, it's repair and servicing missions have been the best proof that robots, as remarkable as they can be, still require humans."

The Right Stuff lives!

According to ABC's World News Tonight, October 31, 2006, 64 astronauts signed a statement that they thought this mission was so important that they were willing to take the risks involved.

This is heartwarming news. In recent decades, a growing segment of the public has become increasingly risk averse, not exactly the stuff of which frontiers are forged. It is reassuring to learn that NASA has not heeded their views, while yet giving all due consideration to safety.

About the Mission (from today's NASA Announcement)

The flight is tentatively targeted for launch during the spring to fall of 2008. Mission planners are working to minimize impact to ongoing International Space Station assembly. During the mission, NASA will keep Launch Pad 39-B at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, available for such a rescue flight should it be necessary.

On the third day of the flight, using the shuttle's mechanical arm, the telescope will be placed on a work platform in the cargo bay. Five separate space walks will be needed to accomplish all mission objectives. The inspection and repair techniques, along with spacewalk planning from station assembly, during recent ISS shuttle visits demonstrated the feasibility of the mission.

The goal is to extend and improve the observatory's capabilities through 2013, when the James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to be launched as Hubble's replacement.

NASA noted that the inspection and repair techniques done on the shuttles that have visited ISS since the Columbia tragedy, along with spacewalk planning from station assembly, were invaluable in showing this mission is feasible,"

According to today's NASA statement, two new instruments will be added to Hubble's toolbox. The Cosmic Origins Spectrograph will be the most sensitive ultraviolet spectrograph yet to fly on Hubble and will probe the cosmic web, the large-scale structure of the universe whose form is determined by the gravity of dark matter and is traced by the spatial distribution of galaxies and intergalactic gas. The Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) is a new camera sensitive across a wide range of wavelengths (colors), including infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light. It will study planets in our own solar system as well as objects in distant galaxies now beyond Hubble's reach.

The Long View - Astronomy from the Moon

The Moon Society continues to support proposals for placing various types of astronomical instruments and observatories on the Moon itself, to benefit from the many advantages of this unique environment, as outlined in our previous position paper cited above.

Peter Kokh
President, The Moon Society


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