Thanks, readers, for helping to save Hubble, a giant sensor in space

By Control Engineering Staff November 1, 2006

NASA announced Oct. 31 that it would send a Space Shuttle mission to extend the life of the Hubble Space Telescope; Control Engineering readers helped encourage that decision.

The April 2004 North American Control Engineering print edition encouraged subscribers and online readers to e-mail NASA, the administration, and elected officials in Washington, asking them to save Hubble. The Control Engineering commentary (“Think Again: Measure and Improve”) said, in part: “One of the largest and most-distant sensors, the Hubble Space Telescope, will need another tune-up and orbital boost within a few years, or it will incinerate in the atmosphere. I’m sure you’ve heard that Hubble’s been set aside in favor of newer visions in NASA’s budget, creating an outcry among those who realize Hubble’s ongoing value in measuring, data gathering, and improving our understanding of the universe’s processes.…We cannot improve what we cannot measure…. E-mail NASA, President Bush, and your Washington delegation asking them to save Hubble.”

As of Oct. 31, NASA announced plans to maintain Hubble sometime in 2008. Five space walks to extend and improve the orbiting observatory’s capabilities are expected to keep it functioning through 2013. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin announced plans for this fifth servicing mission during a meeting with agency employees at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. Goddard is the agency center responsible for managing Hubble.

“We have conducted a detailed analysis of the performance and procedures necessary to carry out a successful Hubble repair mission over the course of the last three shuttle missions. What we have learned has convinced us that we are able to conduct a safe and effective servicing mission to Hubble,” Griffin said. “While there is an inherent risk in all spaceflight activities, the desire to preserve a truly international asset, like the Hubble Space Telescope, makes doing this mission the right course of action.”

Dr. Russell Lefevre, IEEE-USA ’s vice president for technology policy, in a same-day statement, praised the NASA decision: “The Hubble is one of the most productive astronomical observatories ever built. The scientific achievements have fostered an understanding of outer space that would not have been possible without it. The proposed upgrades will provide even greater knowledge of the origin and structure of the universe.” IEEE’s 2004 IEEE-USA position on the Hubble called on NASA to explore “all possible avenues to prolong the useful life of the telescope for the benefit of science and humanity.”

Click here to read IEEE’s views on Hubble.

Click here to read NASA’s announcement about saving Hubble through 2013.

Click here to read Control Engineering’s request for readers to help save Hubble: “Think Again: Measure and Improve.”

—Mark T. Hoske , Control Engineering editor in chief