Posted by hyperpat on October 30, 2006
Once again, the fate of the Hubble telescope is up in the air, awaiting a decision for whether to send a repair mission before critical components reach the end of their life span. Standing in its way is the dedication of the remaining balance of space shuttle missions to building the international space station, and some concerns about astronaut safety, as servicing the Hubble means there would be no ‘safety hutch’, a place where the astronauts could stay while a rescue mission is launced if something would happen to the shuttle that would prevent its safe return.
This is one case where I think it’s clear that the benefit outways any risk factor (over and above the risk factor of any manned space mission). The Hubble has done more to popularize space travel than possibly any other item we’ve placed in space, and it has provided some solid scientific data unobtainable in any other way that has done much to enhance our understanding of the universe, from its age to just what is dark matter. Letting this fine instrument die in favor of a station that has yet to prove its value would be a very poor decision, I think.
The NASA administration has traditionaly shown a strong aversion to risk, in what is an inherently risky enterprise. While this has probably led to fewer accidents in its history, it has also led to little progress in making space flight an everyday reality. So write or call NASA. Let them know how you feel about it. After all, it’s your tax dollars that support NASA – you should have a say in what it’s priorities should be.