Hubble is GO!

By Phil Plait | October 31, 2006 8:23 am

NASA Administrator Mike Griffin spoke today at Goddard Space Flight Center, and he announced that…

The Hubble servicing mission is ON!


The mission is slated for 2008. There are contingencies, of course. This all depends on the Space Shuttle, which is not terribly reliable as far as scheduling goes. There are many space station missions that need to go up first, too. But the Hubble mission is officially on the docket, and that’s great news!

This wasn’t a huge surprise, of course. Even before Griffin spoke, Ed Weiler (GSFC Director), in his introductory remarks, went out of his way to point out that Maryland Senator and tireless Hubble promoter Barbara Mikulski was in the audience. That made it pretty clear that NASA wasn’t about to let Hubble go. :-) I noticed she was the first to stand up and applaud when Griffin actually announced his decision, too.

In the interest of getting this news out quickly, I’m posting this entry early — Griffin is still speaking as I write this. I’ll post updates as I get a chance.

Update 1: Griffin announced the astronaut list. There were several first-time astronauts, which was interesting. At least three have PhDs — none in astronomy! That’s funny, and a bit ironic. But this looks like a good crew, including John Grunsfeld, who has flown four times, two of which were Hubble servicing missions.

Update 2: Barbara Mikulski said a few words. I find it interesting that she pointed out that servicing Hubble is important for science and science education. Griffin has not been a big supporter of the education arm of NASA. I know this won’t mean much to him, but it’s great to hear a US Senator actually make a statement indicating how important science education is!

But nuts, she also said that when it was launched, Hubble’s "lens" didn’t work. Sigh. Hubble doesn’t have a lens, it has a mirror. :)

Update 3: There will be a mission press conference at 9:15 Pacific time. I’ll watch that and post more updates. Until then I have to get the Little Astronomer to school and me to work!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, NASA, Science

Comments (30)

  1. Grand Lunar

    Good to hear that’s it’s on. Hurray for Hubble!

    Hmm, 2008. Quite a while to wait for. But, it’s worth it.

    Is their a limit to how long the Hubble could last with regular servicing missions?

  2. I just want to say this.


  3. owlbear1

    Its really a waste of money and an unnecessary risk. Hubble has been up now 16 years. Spitzer is online doing great, The Keck Interferometer is able to get better pictures, Webb is coming in 2013, and there is good chance Hubble will die in the next 3 years no matter what NASA does. Hubble has been a glorious success, but it time to let go.

  4. King Of Spades

    Grand Lunar.

    They don’t plan to keep Hubble up long enough for another servicing mission to be required. If this one goes as flawlessly as it should, Hubble should remain viable until 2013, at which point the James Webb will take over its duties and it will be decommisioned and, presumably, deorbited.

  5. Gary Ansorge

    Senator Barbara Mikulski doesn’t have to know one end of the Hubble from the other as long as she understands it is important. Less than 2 % of our government representatives have science backgrounds but that doesn’t keep them from knowing science is vitally important to our survival. Governing has historically been more about law and business than science. Also, please correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t it the Hubble in which we had to install a corrective lens due to a mirror astigmatism?

    I note I’ve had more spelling errors in this one post than in the previous 50. Guess I should have stopped celebrating last night after the first glass of wine,,,Yeah, I know, I was anticipating the announcement, but any excuse for a party Dude,,,

    Gary 7

  6. Carey

    “Deorbited”? Is that a euphemism for something more sinister, like “right-sizing”? :)

    I’m a Maryland resident, and I have nothing but good things to say about Barbara Mikulski. We agree more often than not, anyway. As many bad things we hear about how corrupt and useless Congress is (and I’ve said it too), it’s only fair to point out when they do something right.

  7. CanonicalKoi

    Whoo-hoo! We’re going back! An enormous “thank you” to Mike Griffin for giving us a treat and not a trick for Halloween.

  8. Melusine

    WOO-HOO!! Glad to hear it’s at least on the docket. It will be one mission in which I’ll definitely be glued to the TV (or NASA feed). I know a bunch of amateur astronomers here in Houston that are probably feeling very happy today (they were practically in tears over the prospect of Hubble’s early demise). Thanks for the update…and you called it right on this one!

    Gary 7, your post is just fine. People here should know by now to be accepting of spelling errors and typos, unless they really don’t make sense. That’s not an issue for you. 😉

  9. Sorry guys

    But as they say here in the UK Civil Service, “Believe it when it happens”

    All sorts of things can go wrong here, and saying they plan to do it is just a way of trying to silence the critics already complaining that science is being cut back at NASA.

  10. Sticks, that’s pretty cynical I think. I’m not saying that the mission will happen for sure– a lot of bad things can go down between now and then. But if NASA doesn’t commit to do it, then it certainly won’t happen. So we’ve got Step 1 here.

    I don’t think NASA would make this announcement just to “silence critics”. Much of the actions from NASA higher-ups makes t clear that critical voices are not so much a concern. I’m not saying they necessarily ignore people who disagree, just that they don’t do things just for appeasement.

  11. Many of the folks in the auditorium at Goddard raised enthusiastic fists at the news that Grunsfeld and Massimino had been assigned to the mission. But I was a little surprised at all the rookies.

    Mikulski didn’t impress me that much. As well as the “lens” bit, she sounded to me as if she kept calling the NASA administrator “Griffith”. It’s Griffin!

    As for Sticks’ skepticism, there are already hundreds of people working on the Hubble servicing mission (soon to be thousands), there are two instruments all but ready to go, NASA’s whole flight manifest is being reworked to fit this mission in, hundreds of millions of dollars are in the process of being spent. This mission will only not go if someone comes up with an extremely good reason for it not to.

  12. Marsha Allen

    I, for one, am willing to cut Mikulski some slack. She was an absolutely fierce supporter of HST after SM4 was cancelled (and before). She managed to get extra money in the budget to study alternative servicing possiblilties, but she also was a prime mover in getting money for COSTAR (the ‘contact lens’ she mentioned) in the first place.

  13. DrFlimmer

    Great news! Not surprising at all, but still I´m very happy to read this!

    Can´t wait for the new Deep-Field-Pictures 😉

  14. Great news! Tried to leave this with the post above, but apparently failed. Congratulations to my cousing Dr. Gerard Kriss at Johns Hopkins! Very happy to hear there’s more work for the Hubble.

  15. ioresult

    BA said: “Hubble doesn’t have a lens, it has a mirror.”

    Maybe I’m just nitpicking, but I think it’s important. Hubble has multiple lens and mirrors.

    And Gary 7: it’s not astigmatism, it’s spherical aberration.

  16. “Maybe I’m just nitpicking, but I think it’s important. Hubble has multiple lens and mirrors.”

    Nope, no lenses in the optical path: the main assembly and all the current instruments use mirrors exclusively.

  17. I have tried many times to find out if there is even a single lens on board HST, but cannot get all the info I need. I think the FGSs might have some, but I’m just not sure.

  18. I will never forget my first reading of Hubble’s Troubles…. The mirror was EXQUISITELY POLISHED… to the wrong specs.

    Darn those metric/english conversions!


    p.s. from a Country where BOTH English and Metric measurements co-exist, not always peacefully.

  19. Sorry but in the UK we are used to initiatives being announced to much fanfare, only for their delivery to be delayed or scrapped. Also did not Bush (Senior) announce a back to the moon and on to Mars goal that seemed to have got lost somewhere?

    Plus years of bitter experience over here teaches one to be sceptical and cynical. It was my father who told me the “Believe it when it happens” quote

  20. Irishman

    Regarding Bush I’s space initiative, he ponied up the plan, but Congress never ponied up the budget, so it died quietly. Congress seems to be falling in line with Bush II’s space initiative, so it appears to be happening.

  21. Elisha Polomski

    owlbear said:
    “Its really a waste of money and an unnecessary risk. Hubble has been up now 16 years. Spitzer is online doing great, The Keck Interferometer is able to get better pictures, Webb is coming in 2013, and there is good chance Hubble will die in the next 3 years no matter what NASA does. Hubble has been a glorious success, but it time to let go.”
    I must kindly disagree You really cannot compare HST to any ground or space based telescope.
    -I work on the spitzer project, it operates at wavelengths
    that HST cannot attain-and it has a very limited lifetime, in a couple years its cryogens
    will run out and most of its instruments will be unusable.
    It doesnt orbit the Earth so it is not serviceable. Its a “once-off” and really cannot be
    considered a replacement for HST in any way!

    Keck , last I checked was out of operation due to the recent Earthquake, and can only observe
    a limited portion of the sky. The interferometer is AMAZING when it works.
    It doesnt work for all objects, or at all wavelengths.

    Its a nice dream to think Webb will really happen by 2013. Spitzer was originally conceived
    about 30 *YEARS* ago. I sadly doubt Webb will be up by 2013.

    Hst has diffraction limited optical imaging that exceeds most Earth based telescopes
    and can integrate longer, and can observe anywhere in the ENTIRE sky.
    I sincerely hope we service it before its orbit decays, upgrading the STIS instrument would be nice also. Its not possible to observe at those wavelengths with ground based telescopes.

  22. Dr Doug

    Phil: My recollection is that the FGS’s have lenses or at least Koester’s prisms in the optical path. Otherwise, no. The COSTAR ‘contact lens’ is all mirrors. Barb McCulski did call Hubble a “techno-turkey” when the aberration problem was discovered, but since COSTAR she has been supportive, I’ll admit.

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