Hidden Nook

"Because in Cyberspace, no one can hear you scream."

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Canadians in space, Eh?

[Media Source*]

Our friends from the great white north are giving us a hand with salvaging the Hubble Space Telescope via "Candarm," their robotic arm. NASA awarded a Canadian firm to work on the Telescope with a contract that is valued at $154 million and builds on the work (robotics that is) that MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates from Ontario.

This contract is important as it marks the milestone in a go or no go decision by NASA whether to proceed with servicing by robotic means or use people to do it. We'll see the arm put to good use and whether or not it will help the folks in the International Space Agency. But controversy still remains.

Not everyone is happy with the robots taking over.
The move to use robots to service the Hubble Space Telescope rather than spacewalking astronauts remains controversial.

Outgoing NASA Administrator, Sean O’Keefe, has been steadfast in his decision not to risk astronaut lives conducting such a mission. O’Keefe cancelled Hubble servicing via space shuttle attendants following the loss of shuttle Columbia and crew in early 2003.

However, a study performed by a special blue ribbon panel of the U.S. National Research Council recommended to NASA last month that the space agency should scrap plans to service the orbiting telescope robotically. The study group advised that a space shuttle crew could perform the work and doing so was the best option available.

But the proponents of the "robots in space" disagree.
Dan Friedmann, President and Chief Executive Officer of MDA, explained in a statement: “The Hubble mission and our strategic participation in other space missions will demonstrate that robots can cost-effectively complete complex tasks in space, while working together with astronauts on the ground.”

A statement from Canadian Space Agency (CSA) explains that a successful robotic servicing mission could prolong Hubble’s life expectancy well beyond 2010. Without such a mission, the space observatory could fail as soon as 2007.

“Through the Government of Canada’s long-standing commitment and vision, we have earned a reputation for leadership and innovation in space robotics, an expertise that is second to none,” added Marc Garneau, President of the CSA. “NASA’s recognition of the expertise of MDA is a source of pride for all Canadians,” he concluded.

Either way it looks like a fight for jobs (human or machine) lies in the future. Who knows? Maybe the robots should do the work on Hubble. That would leave more time for Astronaunts to focus on more serious issues, such as exploration, solar technologies and golf! Selah!

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By Darnell Clayton • 8:28 PM • Email Post • •


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