IEEE-USA urges 'safe servicing' of Hubble Space Telescope

January 3, 2005

NASA should "strive to develop procedures, technology and equipment that would allow the safe servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope, including the possible use of tele-operated robots," according to an IEEE-USA position adopted by the organization's Board of Directors at its last meeting of the year. In its position adopted in San Antonio on 17 November, IEEE-USA stated: "NASA should continue planning and preparing for the [space shuttle] SM-4 [servicing] mission, while expert panels and the National Academy of Science develop their reports and the [servicing] issue is thoroughly reviewed." IEEE-USA stressed that it "supports exploring all possible avenues to prolong the useful life of the telescope for the benefit of science and humanity."

In an earlier letter to Congress on the Hubble Space Telescope, IEEE-USA President John Steadman said the organization "strongly supports the decision of NASA and the recommendations in the report by the National Academies to commit to a servicing mission to the Hubble that accomplishes the objectives of the originally planned SM-4 mission, including both the replacement of the present instruments with the two instruments already developed for flight...and the engineering objectives, such as gyroscope and battery replacements."

In his letter, Dr. Steadman noted that the Hubble telescope has provided fundamental new results in planetary science; led to the discovery of the most distant object in the solar system; provided more accurate estimates of the age of the universe; offered better measurements of the universe's rate of expansion; provided the deepest portrait of the visible universe; led to the discovery of new stars and dynamic phenomena in space; and offered new views of comets and black holes.

The IEEE-USA president observed that "unless repairs are made to Hubble's batteries and gyroscopes, the observatory will likely become inoperable as early as 2008."

Source: IEEE-USA-Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

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