The Baltimore Sun published an editorial yesterday proclaiming its support for Michael Griffin as the next NASA administrator. However, the editorial also called on Griffin to put more emphasis on Hubble and less on Mars: “While he is on record backing the Bush plan to send humans as far away as Mars, we hope his reputed reasoned skepticism and grasp of the big picture also lead him to back the mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.” The editorial later notes that “Hubble’s data are real, meaningful and cost-effective, something the far-out Mars colonizing plans aren’t.”
Which takes us to The Mars Society, whose leadership clearly rejects the Sun’s either/or in favor of both repairing Hubble and going to Mars. Just as he did last year, Mars Society president Robert Zubrin has spoken out in favor of a shuttle servicing mission to the orbiting telescope. Zubrin’s essay covers a wide range of issues, from the relative risks of shuttle missions for Hubble vs. ISS to the technological readiness (or lack thereof) of a robotic repair mission to a claim that spending $300 million on a deorbit-only mission “amounts to the willful killing of roughly 100,000 people – mostly children.” (This is based on an estimate that one life was saved for every $3,000 spent on tsunami relief, and ignores the fact that a deorbit capability of some kind will need to be developed regardless of what servicing approach, if any, is chosen.)
Zubrin believes that “substantial” damage has been done to the Vision for Space Exploration by NASA’s reticence to repair Hubble. “[H]ow can Congress know that after they spend further tens of billions for human flight systems to the Moon and Mars, that the agency leadership won’t get cold feet again?” Zubrin asks. However, I have heard that Zubrin’s attention to Hubble has been a sore point among some Mars Society members, both last year and this, since they view the effort to save the telescope as a distraction to the society’s larger efforts to promote human exploration of Mars.