The recommendation that NASA plan for a manned space shuttle mission
to service the Hubble Space Telescope has now received support from
the American Astronomical Society (AAS). AAS is one of the ten Member
Societies of the American Institute of Physics.
A National Research Council committee, tasked with reviewing the options
for servicing the space telescope in the wake of the Columbia shuttle
tragedy, concluded late last year that "a shuttle astronaut servicing
mission is the best option for extending the life of Hubble" (see
The NRC committee's report contained three recommendations: that NASA
commit to a Hubble servicing mission; that NASA consider flying a shuttle
servicing mission reasonably soon after the shuttle fleet's return to
flight; and that a robotic mission only be considered for deorbiting
the telescope at some time after a shuttle servicing mission has extended
its scientific life.
On January 18, the AAS released a statement that endorsed the NRC report.
In a press release, AAS President Robert Kirshner called the Hubble
"clearly one of the best things NASA has ever done." He continued,
"The NRC formed a terrific panel of experts to weigh the options
and they concluded a manned servicing mission is the least risky way
to extend Hubble's life. We hope that NASA and Congress will undertake
that mission, not just for astronomers, but for everybody who wants
to know what the Universe is and how it works."
The statement was approved by the AAS Council at its 205th annual meeting.
It says, in part, "The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has been a
remarkable instrument for scientific discovery, of great importance
to members of the American Astronomical Society, to international science
and to the broader world of curious people who seek to know what the
Universe is and how it works." The full text of the January 18
American Astronomical Statement on the National Research
Council Report on "The Assessment of Options for Extending the
Life of Hubble Space Telescope:"
"The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has been a remarkable
instrument for scientific discovery, of great importance to members
of the American Astronomical Society, to international science and
to the broader world of curious people who seek to know what the Universe
is and how it works. The long-awaited Servicing Mission (SM)-4 to
install powerful new instruments and to extend the productive life
of HST was suspended while NASA dealt with the consequences of the
Columbia accident. Congress directed NASA to request a study by the
National Research Council (NRC) of HST servicing options, evaluating
both a shuttle mission and a possible robotic mission.
"The final report (http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11169.html)
of the NRC Committee on the Assessment of Options for Extending the
Lifetime of the Hubble Space Telescope was released on December 8,
2004. The NRC report is extensive and wide-ranging. The three major
recommendations set forth in the report are:
"1) The committee reiterates the recommendation from
its interim report that NASA should commit to a servicing mission
to the Hubble Space Telescope that accomplishes the objectives of
the originally planned SM-4 mission.
"2) The committee recommends that NASA pursue a Shuttle
servicing mission to HST to accomplish the above stated goal. Strong
consideration should be given to flying this mission as early as possible
after return to flight.
"3) A robotic mission approach should be pursued
solely to de-orbit Hubble after the period of extended science operations
enabled by a shuttle astronaut servicing mission, thus allowing time
for the appropriate development of the necessary robotic technology.
"The American Astronomical Society (AAS) endorses
the work of this distinguished committee and its conclusion that the
lowest risk HST servicing mission is a manned servicing mission as
originally envisioned for SM-4.
"In calling for a manned servicing mission, the AAS
reaffirms its position statement "On the Cancellation of Future
Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Missions" (http://www.aas.org/governance/council/resolutions.html#CANCELLATION)
in which the Society called for an independent panel to review the
options, stressed placing paramount importance on astronaut safety,
and asserted that the Hubble Space Telescope has had an impact, not
only on science, but on the dreams and imagination of our young people
that cannot be overstated. The NRC Committee has admirably balanced
those concerns and brought forth cogent recommendations."