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May 15, 2007



I agree that we are probably at the point of no return regarding additional repairs to the Hubble Telescope. It's age and the wear and tear on major components to the telescope that cannot be repaired dictate that it is approaching the end of its usable service life. With this in mind it is worth thinking about the design of future space observatories.

I realize that Hubble's successor is not designed to be repaired and apparently has no astronaut "fixable" components. However, apparently someone has had second thoughts on this approach and we are now informed that a mechanism that would enable an Orion spacecraft to dock with the JWST has been added to telescope. It seems that they now believe there are some "simple" large scale repairs that astronauts could perform on the JWST if it became necessary. (http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/070523_techwed_jwst

I would hope that all future space telescopes will be designed to permit space based repairs and improvements. I think, hope, and believe that human presence in space is here to stay. In view of that, I believe it is a gross misjudgment for America to design its massively expensive space observatories in a way that does not permit astronauts to service them in space. Hubble's "near death experience" following discovery of major flaws in its optics after launch and its miraculous recovery after the daring repair mission should have provided an irrefutable argument in favor of designing serviceability into every future space telescope. Apparently someone wasn't paying attention at NASA.

Despite the best efforts of NASA and its contractors, mistakes happen and there are countless examples of satellites and space probes that have failed or been crippled because of them. Virtually all of those errors manifested themselves far beyond any possibility of human intervention or repair. That is not the case with orbital or near-Earth observatories. Space telescopes and other future instruments and facilities in space are simply too important this nation and to all mankind to risk loss of the entire mission for anything short of a catastrophic failure. With a permanent human presence in space we can and we must move beyond the throw away mentality for high value space instruments and facilities. Too much is riding on the success of our space faring society for us to fail to make these arrangements.

vibram five fingers

I realize that Hubble's successor is not designed to be repaired and apparently has no astronaut "fixable" components.

vibram five fingers

when the hardware fails in space, the data stream drops out and there’s no way to recover it.

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