The American Astronomical Society (AAS), a Member Society of the American
Institute of Physics, has issued a statement expressing "considerable
disappointment" in NASA's decision not to service the Hubble Space
Telescope (HST). The March 9 statement praises the past accomplishments
of the Hubble and its future potential. However, it also cautions that,
"should a HST servicing mission have adverse budget consequences"
to other space science programs, then NASA should seek the views of
the space science communities on the relative merits of servicing the
Hubble versus other projects.
As discussed at a February 2 House Science Committee hearing (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/024.html),
the costs of a Hubble servicing mission could have a significant impact
on other current and planned NASA science missions. The astronomy and
astrophysics community is noted for its process of developing decadal
reports that prioritize projects within the community. The most recent
decadal survey (Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium, see
based on the assumption that the originally-planned SM-4 shuttle mission
to upgrade the Hubble would take place, was prepared prior to the Columbia
shuttle tragedy. Several witnesses at the hearing indicated that the
prioritization should be reevaluated to take into consideration the
current Hubble situation.
"I am personally very disappointed with NASA's current plan not
to service HST," said AAS President Robert Kirshner in a press
release accompanying the statement. "You can be sure we will work
with them to help realize the goals of astronomers as carefully worked
out through our decade plan. We know that NASA is committed to doing
the world's best astronomy and servicing Hubble with the Shuttle is
part of the best program."
The text of the March 9 AAS statement follows:
"AAS Statement on Hubble Space Telescope Servicing
"The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has been the crown
jewel in NASA's science programs for over a decade. Its accomplishments
have revolutionized our understanding of the universe in which we
live, and it has inspired a new generation of students and the public
at large with its discoveries. This remarkable performance can be
expected to continue if HST is serviced. NASA's recently announced
decision to forego any option to service the HST is therefore viewed
with considerable disappointment by the American Astronomical Society
and the astronomical community. While we recognize that HST's mission
must end at some time, the fact that a servicing mission was a part
of NASA's planned activity, and that two key replacement science instruments
are already developed to enable important and exciting new science,
makes this decision particularly unfortunate and difficult to accept.
"Much of the success of NASA's space science program
is due to strong community involvement in planning and setting priorities
based upon scientific merit and relevance to a coherent science program.
Therefore, the AAS strongly concurs with the view advocated by the
recently released report of the NRC Committee to Assess Progress Toward
the Decadal Vision in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Specifically, that
NASA should continue with the missions and programs as prioritized
in the NRC report Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium.'
In particular, should a HST servicing mission have adverse budget
consequences, the AAS urges NASA to include the space science communities
in an assessment of the relative scientific merits of all impacted
missions, in line with the decadal survey process.
"Finally, the AAS notes that HST is a component of
a dynamic, exciting, and evolving set of astronomy and space science
missions. We applaud NASA's continuing commitment to maintaining a
world-class astronomy program,' as expressed in Acting Administrator
Gregory's testimony on February 17, 2005 to the House Science Committee.
This commitment is an essential element of the Vision for Space Exploration,
and the AAS stands ready to work with NASA to assure that strong programs
in space science continue as NASA implements the Vision."
The full text of AAS's March 9 statement and related press release
can be found at http://www.aas.org/policy/PR/2005/hstservicing2.html
This latest statement follows a January 18 statement in which AAS supported
the conclusion of a National Research Council panel that NASA should
pursue a shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2005/008.html).
Audrey T. Leath
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics