Friday, January 30, 2004

Shuttle, Mars, and Hubble

Many links at

Feet, miles, nautical miles, pounds, etc. still on NASA sites! In 1902 legislation requiring the federal government to use metric exclusively was defeated by a single vote.

NASA cancels Hubble Telescope , due to directive to retire the shuttle by 2010. Hello, Mars ... Goodbye Hubble, the resources will now go into human exploration program. The decision prompted dismay and anger among astronomers across the nation. Hubble is doing the best science ever, but a shuttle is too unsafe for flight to the Hubble. NASA officials decided that a backup would have to be ready to help any shuttle going anywhere but the International Space Station. So what happens now? -- Public Bombards Operators to Save Hubble

NASA policy is confusing. Below are some points found in the many articles that have appeared following president Bush's new Space Initiative.

One less flight also means one less chance for another shuttle disaster. NASA will not risk astronauts or shuttles on another mission to upgrade Hubble Space Telescope, widely considered the most successful science spacecraft ever. The planned mission to Hubble was the only flight scheduled to go somewhere other than the station. Bush's plan is to shift $11 billion NASA is now spending on other projects to the new Moon-Mars program. Bush stated that all human spaceflight would be directed to support the effort of putting people on the Moon and Mars. The shuttle, which is the only means by which NASA could service Hubble, is to be devoted to finishing construction of the space station. The danger inherent in sending a space shuttle to maintain Hubble pales in comparison with the danger of sending astronauts to the moon and Mars. It’s as though the agency were abandoning hopscotch for fear of tripping, to concentrate instead on sky diving.

"The tragedy is that the Hubble Space Telescope is better now than it ever was before," said astronomer Tom Brown, 34, instrument scientist for the now-grounded Wide Field Camera 3. "It's like shooting a prize-winning thoroughbred when it's about to win the Triple Crown." What really astonishes me is how the president can talk about the moon and Mars while pulling the plug on the Hubble Space Telescope. Is this the Bush vision? Where is Bush's curiosity? The Hubble Space Telescope is the greatest individual scientific instrument of all time.

In a Jan. 21 letter to NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe, Mikulski, the ranking minority member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA’s budget, askeds the space agency chief to reconsider his decision. Mikulski also asked O’Keefe to appoint an independent panel of outside experts to assess all the ins and outs of conducting another space shuttle mission to Hubble.

NASA is making "uneven" progress in the steps required before it can fly another mission, too soon to schedule the next flight. NASA, which first spoke of resuming flights this spring, now hopes for September or October. NASA has decided to launch only during the day. NASA's administrator, Sean O'Keefe, has repeatedly promised to follow all recommendations of the accident board. Some space experts think NASA is too stodgy and incompetent to create a new spacecraft, what type of vehicle is still a mystery. NASA officials say they don't know whether it would be reusable or single-use; whether it would touch down on land or sea; or whether it would have wings. Others say the agency has the technical know-how — just not the cash. Some former members of NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel worry that too many resources will be diverted from the space station as NASA reshifts its focus.

Bush Vision Was Key to Saving NASA from Budget Cuts (political)

"The real future of the international space station is still to be determined," said Michael Kostelnik, a NASA administrator who oversees the space shuttle and space station programs.

The Hubble has done more to advance understanding of the universe than any other space mission. This is the true adventure of the human spirit.

Too unsafe to fly to the Hubble?

Was the Atlantic too unsafe for Columbus? How do we discover without taking some risk?

Ed's proposal - fly to the Hubble in two steps, first to a parking orbit where inspection takes place, then a final boost to the Hubble Telescope. Inspection at the Space Station will not work for missions using US preferred inclinations near 28 degrees, the plane change needs a velocity impulse of about 3 km/s, about ten times as much as the shuttle orbital maneuvering system has. Space Station is in an orbit inclined 51.6 degrees to the equator. (Before the Russians joined the program, the Space Station was to be in a 28.5 degree orbit, same as Hubble). The most efficient orbit out of Russia's Baikonour results in an inclination to the equator of 51.6 degrees.

Inspection of Space Shuttle Tiles in orbit -- A free-flying television camera, the Autonomous EVA Robotic Camera (AERCam) was developed to perform visual and non-visual inspection activities around orbiting parent spacecraft. I believe it may have been possible to save the astronauts if inspection showed high danger. Looking ahead to future missions, on seeing trouble, take off the astronauts and (try to)land shuttle on autopilot. More at Free Flying Servicers -- See also: PSA red globe , however, Yuri Gawdiak, the inventor of this smaller device says the PSA is designed for internal operations only. I would want to inspect my Space Shuttle before deorbit if I were flying it! (posted at 2/4/03)

Ed Johnson