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Shuttle Should Save Hubble, Nas Says

December 13, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 50

A space shuttle mission is the best option to extend the life of the Hubble Space Telescope, according to a National Academies report. Such a shuttle mission--which would replace batteries and gyroscopes as well as install two new science instruments--would not be significantly more risky to crew safety than a mission to the International Space Station, the report says. The report recommends that a robotic mission should only be pursued to deorbit Hubble once its scientific life is over. Using a robotic mission to service Hubble is problematic, the report says, because there is not enough time to develop the necessary technology and there is a high chance of a mission failure. "The design of [a robotic] mission, as well as the immaturity of the technology involved and the inability to respond to unforeseen failures, make it highly unlikely that NASA will be able to extend the scientific lifetime of the telescope through robotic servicing," said committee chairman Louis J. Lanzerotti, professor at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, at the report's release. In response to the report, members in both the House and Senate have pledged to hold hearings early next year.


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