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Shuttle to Hubble Gets OK October 31, 2006

Posted by thebeam in The Byways.

NASA announced today (10/31/06) that it will schedule a mission to give the Hubble Space Telescope a much needed overhaul.

From the NASA announcement

Allard Beutel/Dwayne Brown
Headquarters, Washington

Dewayne Washington/Susan Hendrix
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

James Hartsfield/Kyle Herring
Johnson Space Center, Houston
RELEASE: 06-343

NASA Approves Mission and Names Crew for Return to Hubble

Shuttle astronauts will make one final house call to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope as part of a mission to extend and improve the observatory’s capabilities through 2013.

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin announced plans for a fifth servicing mission to Hubble Tuesday during a meeting with agency employees at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. Goddard is the agency center responsible for managing Hubble.

“We have conducted a detailed analysis of the performance and procedures necessary to carry out a successful Hubble repair mission over the course of the last three shuttle missions. What we have learned has convinced us that we are able to conduct a safe and effective servicing mission to Hubble,” Griffin said. “While there is an inherent risk in all spaceflight activities, the desire to preserve a truly international asset like the Hubble Space Telescope makes doing this mission the right course of action.”

The flight is tentatively targeted for launch during the spring to fall of 2008. Mission planners are working to determine the best location and vehicle in the manifest to support the needs of Hubble while minimizing impact to International Space Station assembly. The planners are investigating the best way to support a launch on need mission for the Hubble flight. The present option will keep Launch Pad 39-B at the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., available for such a rescue flight should it be necessary.

This is not to say that this is a done deal. 18 months is a long time, and many things can change. But it is an encouraging sign of progress nonetheless. It is up to us to keep the pressure on NASA and on the rest of our government if we believe that our future includes a space program.

For those of you who wonder if this is all worth it, consider the following. The growth of the computer industry is almost entirely a product of the needs of the space program during the 60’s. New technologies were invented, basic research lead to discoveries in physics that in turn lead to discoveries in materials and processes. Unless you are reading this using an abacus, the computer you use, and probably almost everything within arms reach, is a product of the space program.

Go through your house. Look in your medicine cabinet. On the way to the store, look at the controls of your car, the lights at the intersections, the technology that surrounds us at every turn.

These are all products of the last forty-five years of progress. On May 25, 1961 President John F. Kennedy addressed Congress, the Nation, and the world. Towards the end of this speech, he outlined what he thought was an achievable goal.

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations–explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon–if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.

Sadly, he didn’t live long enough to see this goal achieved in 1969. But the direction we took back then is still the right direction for us to take today. It won’t solve all of our problems, and in fact will lead to new unexpected problems. Maybe I’ll finish with a quote from the into to episode 1 of season 1 of the TV series “Babylon 5”, one which explains why we need to be looking outwards into space.

It can be a dangerous place, but it’s our last, best hope for peace.

Life and Hearts is in session. Are you ready to “Hunt the bitch?”



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