Campaign '04

Senator Barb and Hubble

Watching football Sunday afternoon, I was startled to see a political commercial mention the Hubble Space Telescope. I wasn’t surprised, though, to see that the ad was for Barbara Mikulski, who is running for reelection to the Senate here in Maryland. Mikulski “fought to save the Hubble telescope”, the ad claimed, and also mentioned that she “brought in high-tech jobs at NIH and Goddard Space Center”. (You can watch the ad in QuickTime and Real formats.)

Mikulski’s election web site has more on the topic, including a petition visitors can sign to save the Hubble. (As if there aren’t enough pro-Hubble petitions online already.) Her web site also notes that she fought to secure funding for the New Horizons mission to Pluto (being run by APL in Maryland, of course) as well as $10 million in funding to improve launch facilities at NASA Wallops. That’s more than you’ll see most candidates say about space, although she still has to master a bit more of the space learning curve: her web site also mentions that she successfully worked for “Wallops Flight Facility to be designated as a site for NASA’s commercial launches.” NASA’s commercial launches? Oh well…

12 comments to Senator Barb and Hubble

  • Philip Littrell

    About the Space Review article “Robots and Hubble: a bad idea?”, it discussed Alternative one: bring back the shuttle and Alternative two: replace Hubble with spacecraft. Some people have proposed Alternative three: replace Hubble with ground telescopes.

    NASA could give funding to the astronomy community to build a ground telescope with adaptive optics. It’s not a perfect solution because Hubble can detect some wavelengths that ground telescopes cannot, but it’s a very cost-effective solution and would be a good compromise until the next-generation space telescopes are launched.

    Alternative three would be on the upper-left of the chart (low cost, high scientific/astronomical value).

    The University of Arizona’s $120 million Large Binocular Telescope is the world’s most powerful optical telescope, with images about 10 times as sharp as the Hubble’s.

  • Dogsbd

    There is so much hype involving Hubble now that it can’t be judged from a purely rational viewpoint in the public arena.

    It was and still is a great instrument, but is not the be all and end all astronomical instrument that the hype makes it out to be. It is certainly not worth spending more hundreds of billions of dollars on to eek out a little more life from it. That sort of money would be better spent on ground based (as pointed out above by Mr. Littrell) or even a brand new space based telescope.

    As for online petitions to “Save the Hubble” I once asked in another forum where I could find a “Let Hubble Die” petition. Haven’t found one yet.

  • I think you are being very unfair to Ms. Mikulski, especially in your tone. It is my understanding that she _did_ begin the fight to save Hubble. And, I believe it is also true that she fought hard for the Pluto mission. The first, and I believe the second, are managed from her state, but, lots of stuff is managed from my state and I don’t hear word one about spaceflight here.

    Barbara Mikulski has been one of the strongest and most consistent friends the space community has had. I think there is an unfortunate amount of truth in my thought that she doesn’t get the respect she deserves because she is not a Republican.

    I think the Bush Administation’s plan to send a robot to Hubble, when astronauts are willing to risk the flight, is absurd. Especially so of the goal is to save money.

    However, I do agree with the Bush Administration that if the choice really does come down to Hubble or the Exploration Initiative, the choice is clear: we’ve looked from home long enough, it’s time to go out and explore.

    – Donald

  • Dogsbd

    I believe that the only reason NASA is even considering the robotic mission option is due to people like Barbara Mikulski who have made it politically impossible to just let the Hubble die. Hubble is not worth the risk of lives to save it with a shuttle mission nor is it worth the hundreds of millions (I slipped and wrote “billions” above!!) a robotic mission would cost. But again, due to Barbara Mikulski and others the cost vs gain equation has been skewed by the hype so we will either spend the money or risk the lives regardless.

    And that is a shame.

  • AJ Mackenzie

    Hubble is not worth the risk of lives to save it with a shuttle mission

    is finishing the space station worth the risk to the lives of the 25-30 shuttle crews required to do the job (vs. just 1 crew for hubble)?

  • Dogsbd

    The risk isn’t the same as the ISS can serve as a safe haven if trouble develops during certain phases of the mission. We have also made promises to other partners to complete certain work on the ISS, the same is not true of Hubble.

    But for a more direct answer to your question, in my opinion the ISS is NOT worth risking anything much less anyones life.

  • MrEarl

    Senator Mikulski is my senator from Maryland. I say from my many meetings with her and her staff (mainly staff) they are all very committed to space exploration in all forms, ( human and robotic ). She is also very commited to constituent services so it’s not supprising that she would be interested in Hubble and the Pluto probe. Walk into her DC or Baltimore offices and you’ll find stafe that is more up on space policy and programs than most members of congress. When I have talked to her she seems genuinely excited about not only the Hubble discoveries but the Mars rovers and her meetings with shuttle astronauts. She may be a sharp critic of NASA at times but it is from hjer firm belife in the program and her interest to see it succede.

  • I disagree about the space station, for reasons I have argued before — i.e., a place requiring supplies that can potentially provide a large market (and probably the only near-term large market) for commercial launch vehicles.

    Mikulski is protecting the interests of her constituents. As a Senator, that’s her job. However, I also believe that she happens to believe what she says.

    I would support a regular Shuttle mission to “save” Hubble. As the most significant instrument in modern astronomy, it is worth the incremental costs of another Shuttle launch, for historical reasons if nothing else. (In fact, I believe the fuel NASA wants to use to sink it should be used to boost it to a higher orbit, so that it’s mirror can be used later. In fact again, I think we should be boosting all hardware to high storage orbits, rather than dumping it into the ocean. Early exploration of a new frontier is all about emplacement of infrustructure and we will need some of this hardware in the future, but that is a different debate.)

  • AJ Mackenzie

    The risk isn’t the same as the ISS can serve as a safe haven if trouble develops during certain phases of the mission

    I recall reading today about how to give the shuttle mission to Hubble its own safe haven:

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/257/1

    in my opinion the ISS is NOT worth risking anything much less anyones life.

    sounds like you’d be happy just getting rid of the shuttle, period. what constitutes an acceptable risk for human spaceflight?

  • Dogsbd

    AJ: “I recall reading today about how to give the shuttle mission to Hubble its own safe haven:

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/257/1

    I haven’t gotten around to reading taht one yet, thanks for the reminder.

    Aj:”sounds like you’d be happy just getting rid of the shuttle, period. what constitutes an acceptable risk for human spaceflight?”

    I would certainly be happy if we could ground the shuttles now, today, yesterday even. And then build a craft meant to take man beyond LEO, THAT is something worthwhile that makes the risk of spaceflight acceptable.

  • Harold LaValley

    The trouble with this argument: The risk isn’t the same as the ISS can serve as a safe haven if trouble develops during certain phases of the mission. ,Is that you are planning for damage to occur on the way up but not for the way down.

    This is no safe haven for the way down, thou damge has not as of yet happened in that senerio.

    Even the safe haven of the iss has its limitations and is very dependent on the amount of supplies present when such an event would occur. We can not always plan that the ISS will always have the supplies needed to sustain any crew for more than a few weeks at best. This is no where near the time to mount a rescue shuttle and I am sure that the Russians as well would disapprove of lending one since it still would not meet the require number of seats to return a full shuttle crew.

    I would prefer safe return versus safe haven under the planned if event happens on the way up.

    As for the on the way down escape pods…

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