The Hubble Telescope, which has captured views of some of the most amazing deep-space objects, is likely getting a new lease on life.
Former NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe canceled a Hubble mission in the wake of the Columbia shuttle disaster that killed seven astronauts in 2003. Griffin, who succeeded him, said he would reconsider the decision if the space shuttles could return to flying on a regular schedule without serious problems.
A rehab mission would keep Hubble working until about 2013. It would add two new camera instruments, upgrade aging batteries and stabilizing equipment, add new guidance sensors and repair a light-separating spectrograph. Without a servicing mission, Hubble likely would deteriorate in 2009 or 2010.
The final report, Assessment of Options for Extending the Life of the Hubble Space Telescope, said in part: “a shuttle astronaut servicing mission is the best option for extending the life of Hubble and preparing the observatory for eventual robotic de-orbit.” Costs and attendant dangers had made the loss of Hubble a real possibility – a terrible waste after all it’s shown us.
The JWST is NASA’s project of the future, but given the mercurial nature of public and legislative support, it’s encouraging that there’s a good chance we can keep Hubble aloft until its replacement is launched sometime next decade. Score one for science.