Tuesday, April 26, 2005

SAVE HUBBLE

Appeal to save Hubble telescope - By Pallab Ghosh - BBC News science correspondent.

The man in charge of the Hubble space telescope's science missions has appealed to Nasa's new administrator to find the money for one last servicing mission to the observatory.
Dr Stephen Beckwith told BBC News that the cost of such a mission would amount to "loose change" for the US space agency and would lead to many important scientific discoveries.
This week marks Hubble's 15th year in space. Already, its stunning pictures have transformed our understanding of the cosmos.
Among its many considerable achievements, the telescope has enabled us to work out the age of the Universe and confirm the existence of black holes.
But this remarkable piece of orbiting hardware needs regular maintenance and unless it is serviced soon, it will probably stop working in about three years' time.
Currently, Nasa is not prepared to risk a human shuttle flight to do this upgrade work and is reserving funds sufficient only to bring the telescope down safely at the end of its mission - whenever that comes.
But Dr Beckwith, the director of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), which operates Hubble, believes that is a poor decision.
"Hubble's budget represents less than one-and-a-half percent of what Nasa spends yearly on space - I think it's loose change.
"I think the costs of keeping Hubble alive should not be a major factor for the agency given the high profile that Hubble has in both science and good publicity.
"Hubble is the best mission in Nasa's fleet right now. It's producing beautiful science that the public loves and it makes us all look just great."

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