On Aug 3rd Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), which accounts for about 30 percent of all Hubble scientific observation programs stopped functioning. Only 4 of Hubble’s 6 gyroscopes are still operational, 3 of which are used daily and have estimated failure date of 2007. Even Hubble’s rechargeable nickel-hydrogen batteries are deteriorating. However, these breakdowns should come as no surprise as Hubble’s originally projected lifespan was 15 years, which it will reach in 2005.
So is this the end for Hubble? Not if astronomers have there way. NASA had considered giving up on the money pit, but thanks to some very persuasive and misguided advocates of Hubble, NASA is now considering a rescue mission by way of the space mounties. Yep, it’s the Canadians to rescue with a two-armed robot named Dextre.
So what’s wrong with saving Hubble from a final plunge into the sea? Simple, it’s a waste. The mission will cost an estimated 1 to 1.6 BILLION US dollars, that’s equal to the original cost of Hubble with no guarantee of success. If the mission is successful, it will add only a few years to Hubble’s life. Furthermore, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is hailed as the successor to Hubble is scheduled for launch in 2011. Should we really be spending more money on something that’s effectively obsolete?