Goodbye, Old Friend: Hubble Mission May End

Monday, January 24 2005 @ 06:00 am EST

Contributed by: bobmoody

The White House under George W. Bush has announced that the Hubble Space Telescope will be allowed to die a sooner-than-expected fiery death. The announcement has been made that the planned robotic servicing mission scheduled for 2006 will be scrapped due to its estimated overall cost of some $1 billion. Without a servicing mission Hubble will fall back to Earth in the next few years.

The venerable Hubble Space Telescope has earned its place in history many times over. But perhaps more importantly, it has earned a place in the hearts of the American public. Hubble is our telescope, bought and paid for with American tax dollars, and loved as no science instrument has ever been loved. The American people should have some say in whether this decision shall be the final word for the gallant Hubble. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is, after all, funded by the American taxpayer. They, work for you.

News of this decision has been greeted with deep concern by scientists. Quoting Holland Ford, an astronomer for John Hopkins University in a story by Robert Roy Britt of Space.Com, “I sure hope it’s wrong….[this] means that a lot of excellent science that could be done will not be done.” Britt spoke with Ford by telephone Friday, January 21. “It will be a great loss for science. It will also be a great loss for the way in which Hubble communicates science through [it’s] images to people around the world,” Ford added. In the same article, the American Astronomical Society’s deputy executive director, Kevin Marvel, stated that rumors of Hubble’s demise had been circulating for several days. Thousands of astronomers represented by the American Astronomical Society, “[will] work to try and make sure that some sort of servicing [mission] is made available for Hubble,” said Marvel in his telephone interview with Britt.

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In another Space.Com article, Space News Staff Writer, Brian Berger, tells of a source in the U.S. Senate predicting that, “the decision will go over like a lead balloon” in that governmental body. A House of Representatives source also tells Berger that, “[this decision] is really going to upset the Hubble crowd and that includes some members of Congress.”

People around the world have grown to love that shining star of science that is Hubble. If the opinion of the American public or our lawmakers carries any weight, there may be a fight lying just over the Earth’s limb.

As an amateur astronomer, I'm proud of what Hubble has done and what it can continue to do for the science of astronomy. I suggest that amateur astronomers send in personal opinions to their representatives in Washington asking for the servicing mission to Hubble be re-examined very closely once again.

Amateur astronomers are the vital link between the professional astronomical community and the public. Through our public observing campaigns and events, we have a chance to inform people of how we are trying to give Hubble another chance. We should all make every effort to privately encourage the Congress and House of Representatives to help save Hubble from a death too soon, to keep her flying and pleasing crowds around the world for as long as possible. Is the future of Hubble Space Telescope important enough for you to take a stand? Are we up to the task of speaking in favor of this last servicing mission?

Hubble can possibly be made to last for an amount of time that will more closely match that needed length of time until the James Webb NGST (Next Generation Space Telescope) is up and running, and that is what we're fighting for. Let's keep that amount of time between the demise of Hubble and the dawn of the Webb NGST era as short as possible.

Go to our Save the Hubble button in the right column and sign their petition, or maybe even make a small contribution. Let's not look back in 10-15 years and wish we'd spoken up for Hubble when we had this opportunity. Let's try to make this last servicing mission a reality, and look back from the future with a feeling, a sense of pride about what we had at least tried to do, even if our efforts fail.

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