Forcing a Hubble repair

Could Congress force NASA to repair the Hubble Space Telescope? That’s the suggestion of an article on the New Scientist web site Tuesday, which notes that the House Science Committee “could introduce legislation to force a rescue mission – using either robots or astronauts.” The committee is apparently considering such a move, depending on the contents of a number of reports, including an assessment of the risks of a shuttle servicing mission, it is expecting to receive from NASA as soon as next month. What new administrator nominee Mike Griffin thinks about Hubble—a very big question mark at the moment—will doubtless also play a role. A bigger question, though, may be whether Congress should force NASA to carry out a mission that the agency has, for better or worse, determined to be too risky—particularly in the case of the shuttle option—or otherwise unlikely to succeed.

7 comments to Forcing a Hubble repair

  • Kevin Davis

    It is time to let the Hubble go! For crying out loud!

  • Stu

    Isn’t it time we quit throwing away billion dollar investments? It is no wonder NASA has budget problems with congress and the public.

  • Harold LaValley

    One could argue that repairs are not part of investment but for most it is the sum of all that creates investment.

    One the flipside of it when we are done with the shuttles we will have invested not only the design, build, launch, refurbishment, retrofit or upgrade dollars only to mothball them to a museum. I for one would love to see them but is it the right thing to do when so much cash has been utlized to making them fly.

  • Kevin Davis

    Well there is waste that is worse than NASA. However I would have NASA spend the money on sending humans to Mars rather than the Hubble.

  • If it’s an attempted robot mission (with a consequent low probability of success), I definitely agree with Kevin. If it’s a Shuttle mission, the equation gets a little more complex.

    The incremental cost of a Shuttle mission, even post Columbia, is relatively low, and I don’t think the risk involved is beyond what we should be taking in spaceflight, especially with astronauts who have volunteered. It would buy a lot of political good will. It would also set a terrible precedent that every other scientist could use to defend their project against what they see as this evil Mars boondoggle.

    Still, I think I would support a human mission. A robot mission is a complete waste of money that should be spent on the VSE.

    — Donald

  • Kat

    If we actually were dedicating the kind of money to the basic research which will be required for a Mars mission (artificial gravity, radiation protection, reusable surface-to-orbit launch vehicles which can be reused on a short time frame for ferrying supplies to a Mars mission vehicle) it would perhaps be a “distraction” to repair Hubble.
    However, if we’re not getting that money *anyway*, what harm does it do to repair the telescope, which has certainly proved its usefulness to the scientific community.

    We need to start thinking a little more realistically about risk and spaceflight. It isn’t going to be risk-free anytime soon, and the astronauts who volunteer know what they’re getting into. The American Public needs to be willing to let the astronaut corps take those risks if we are to continue to get anything out of our 40 years of investment in the national space program. If we let the Hubble telescope decay and die because we’re afraid to send volunteers to repair it, we tell the nation and the world that we’re too cowardly to continue to be involved in space exploration.

  • TORO

    Congress “force” NASA to risk a HST mission? Congress cannot “force” “Astronaut Schiavo” to insert a feeding tube and launch…nor the president… and there is still time before HST dies. It may take the supreme court to save Hubble’s mechanical life.

    What does congress do these days??? They have yet to debate the Bushagain vision.

    The vision for NASA should be quite simple: control spending, continue to control spending every year with no increase, and build a cargoless glamourless commuter car with an escape system or two (Apollo had a seat belt – why not add the air bag???) to LEO and back.

    Once NASA can get humans to and from LEO, or if the rocket blows and the air bag deploys and they live say 4,999/5000 times, and production cost is controlled, and preflight review eliminated, then return to moon and go to Mars will simply fall in place. Humans to Mars and back about 2050 at a fixed or reduced budget. That’s the ticket.

    And maybe with Mars in 2050 a more humble, advertising plastered NASA can achieve “another small step for humanity, and one very LARGE step for a woman!”.