NASA Approves Shuttle Flight to Service Space Telescope

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Hubble Saved: NASA Approves Shuttle Flight to Service Space Telescope [Space.com]

The decision is in and the Hubble Space Telescope is saved.

NASA announced Tuesday that it will go ahead with one final space shuttle mission to repair and upgrade Hubble after months of debate over the risks of such an endeavor.

“We are going to add a shuttle servicing mission of the Hubble Space Telescope to the shuttle’s manifest to be flown before it retires,” announced NASA chief Michael Griffin at the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Baltimore, Maryland, where Hubble engineers and scientists gave him a standing ovation. “This is a day that I’ve wanted to get to for the last 18 months.”

Griffin has long said that he would support a proposed Hubble servicing mission provided its risk did not exceed that already accepted for other shuttle flights. The mission will add years onto the Hubble’s lifetime and will help prepare the space telescope for its ultimate, but controlled, plunge through the Earth’s atmosphere.

“Hubble is one of the great observatories,” Griffin has said. “It has revealed fundamental things about the universe of which we had no idea.”

Griffin said today that the upcoming servicing mission will likely launch aboard NASA’s Discovery orbiter between construction flights to complete the International Space Station (ISS), and is expected to feature no less than four—and preferably five—spacewalks to upgrade Hubble’s optics and make other repairs.

“We’re trying for early May of 2008,” Griffin said. (…)

Astronomers hope the decision means Hubble could still be in operation by 2013 when NASA’s next great observatory—the James Webb Space Telescope—is slated to fly. Hubble’s visible and ultraviolet observations will not be duplicated by JWST, which will scan primarily in the infrared wavelengths, researchers said.

Space.com also has a Hubble podcast: Hubble: The First Great Space Observatory.

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Hal

I am the non-admin personality of blivet tool & die I have been academically trained as a professional archaeologist (MA, RPA) and now live in Arvada, CO. Father, husband, scientist, geek of several trades, and high-functioning Autistic adult. Future planetary expatriate?