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Off Topic Thoughts about NASA and the Hubble

Posted by johnreynolds on January 26, 2005 at 5:33 AM PST

This has very little to do with Java, except reminding us that it is important to keep thinking outside the box...

'Fix it' or 'crash it' aren't NASA's only Hubble options:

Recent reports sadly indicate that NASA has abandoned plans to save the Hubble due to budgetary concerns. This reminds me of 1979 when NASA had to let Skylab crash. Back then, the blame was put on expensive delays in completing the Space Shuttle... Today the cost of returning the Shuttle to service is cited as a contributing factor.

The new plan is to launch a booster rocket that will rendezvous with the Hubble, latch on, and safely crash the multi-billion dollar telescope into the Pacific Ocean.

I've just got to ask: Since NASA can remotely dock a booster with the Hubble, why not use a booster to change the Hubble's orbit?

My understanding is that sending a Shuttle to the Hubble is risky because the Shuttle cannot get to the Space Station from the Hubble's orbit.

So change the Hubble's orbit. The Hubble (and the Space Station) can be 'moved'. The Hubble is not anchored to stone. It is fragile, so it has to be moved gently, but it can be done.

Obviously no science can happen while the Hubble is being moved, but isn't a hiatus better then losing everything?

Low thust boosters (ion boosters?) can do the job, taking as long as necessary. A long delay might even be to advantage, giving time to develop a more automated servicing mission when the Hubble 'docks' with the Space Station. Once the Hubble is replenished, a new booster can ferry it back to it's optimum orbit, and science can resume.

There is one big caveat of concern, once the Hubble has depleted some consumables, portions of the observatory may be ruined beyond repair. Be that as it may, the effort is still worthwhile.

If we hope to become a space-fairing civilization, then we have to learn how to fix things in space. This is a perfect opportunity to learn.