Los Angeles, CA, March 19, 2004 – The Space Frontier Foundation commended NASA for re-evaluating its decision to kill the Hubble Space Telescope. Reacting to comments by NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe, who stated NASA was looking for an alternative to the original shuttle repair mission, the group urged the agency to mount a robotic rescue as soon as possible.
“NASA’s original decision on Hubble showed a narrow shuttle-or-nothing bias,” remarked Foundation Founder Rick Tumlinson. “We are happy to see NASA re-evaluating their decision, and hope Mr. O’Keefe’s statements are more than just words.”
The Foundation believes non-shuttle options could be used to save the observatory, or at least delay the need for human servicing missions. Examples include using commercial automated boosters to either move Hubble to an orbit which would make it more accessible for maintenance, or to boost it to a high “parking” orbit, where it could wait until other means are found to rehabilitate it. They point out there are several commercial firms proposing robotic missions to save the telescope, and that NASA’s own plans include such a mission, but the Foundation differs on how to go about it.
“One of the crazy ironies of this entire situation is that since they decided not to use the shuttle to save it, NASA is planning to spend millions on an automated spacecraft to dock with Hubble and bring it down in a ‘controlled’ manner,” explained Tumlinson. “If they can do that, why can’t they use a similar commercial spacecraft to push it up to an orbit accessible by shuttle or space station crews, or to a high ‘storage’ orbit where it can wait until a long term solution is found? It’s defies logic.”
The Foundation sees the original Hubble decision as coming from an old use-it-and-throw-it-away mentality at the agency. The organization believes this type of thinking will not work in the future, if the agency is to carry out the president’s vision for a new space agenda, within a budget. The organization is urging NASA to think outside of the box – which in this case means beyond NASA’s own shuttle fleet – by looking for non-traditional solutions to stretch valuable resources and save money.
“NASA has a chance to save this national treasure, demonstrate critical new commercial robotic technologies for moving things around in space and support the development of commercial in-space capabilities that will not only save taxpayer funds, but might help lead to new space industries,” Tumlinson continued. “If they are going to achieve the president’s goal of developing a strong and economical human presence in space they need start thinking this way right now.”