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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Can NASA Afford To Save Hubble?

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(Cross Posted on Blogger News)

When the U.S. space agency reorganized its mission enterprises last year, it combined all of its astronomy programs into a single program dubbed the Universe. Today, the Universe has more than a dozen space astronomy missions on orbit and at least that many in development.

Between paying for the space shuttle program and funding new forward-looking space exploration projects like the Crew Exploration Vehicle, NASA's budget for the Universe is not getting any bigger. In fact, NASA's 2006 budget calls for spending slightly less on the Universe than in 2005, even as the Universe is seeing significant cost growth on some of its highest priority projects.

Although Hubble has brought about many beautiful pictures throughout it's tenure, rescuing this telescope at the risk of other programs seems illogical at best. Although Hubble is one of the very popular programs that NASA is known for, it's presence threatens to funnel funds away from other projects like the Space Interferometry Mission (SIM) which is responsible for finding new extrasolar planets (a higher priority for mankind than simply "gazing at the stars").

Simply scrapping Hubble would provide funds for not only SIM, but also other "minor" projects such as Kepler as well (not to mention helping fund the James Webb Space Telescope).
And with NASA leaning toward sending a space shuttle crew to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope, the space agency's strapped Universe budget is going to have to bear at least part of the cost of the estimated $750 million undertaking.

It seems that Hubble is probably going to receive "first rights" as far as financing goes, leaving the other programs functioning but crippled. Although NASA is partially at fault for the budgeting shortage (due to the Columbia tragedy) but they should not be sacrificing essential programs that are needed for the exploration and colonization of our solar system.

Earth has plenty of telescopes on it's surface, and it may be better to contract a company to build, launch and set a satellite telescope into space instead of preserving a "dying machine" that is long past its warranty. Hubble has contributed a lot towards astronomy in the past, but it should not simply continue in order for mankind to sacrifice the future of space exploration.

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By Darnell Clayton • 7:43 PM • Email Post • •


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