The End Is Near For Mighty
By James Donahue
The great Hubble Telescope
has begun to fail and the Bush Administration is not interested in doing anything to save it.
With its batteries expected
to fail in another two or three years, NASA reports that one of the four main astronomical instruments on the space-based
telescope has unexpectedly shut down.
This instrument, the
an imaging spectrograph, splits light into colors and helps astronomers determine things like the age of the universe, planet
forming environments around the stars and study black holes.
In other words, one of
the eyes of the great telescope has just closed, and ground operators aren’t sure why, or if they can get it open again.
Ever since President
George W. Bush announced plans for a new manned space mission back to the moon and then on to Mars, federal dollars have been
slashed for many of the older NASA programs, including shuttle trips to continue maintenance on Hubble.
That our shuttle flights
have been grounded since the Columbia disaster in February, 2003, has struck a significant blow to the overall NASA space
program. The United States has been relying
on Russian shuttles to keep the International Space Station manned.
Since its launch in 1990,
Hubble has been giving astronomers all over the world amazingly clear images that have been slowly unlocking the secrets of
the Universe. It hovers at 375 miles above the Earth, out where the pictures it sends are unobstructed by clouds, weather
Every day, Hubble delivers
from 10 and 15 gigabytes of information to astronomers. As of March, 2000, the telescope recorded more than 330,000 observations,
examined over 25,000 targets, and sent information for over 2,665 scientific papers.
The telescope has given
us more insight and more knowledge about our universe and our own solar system than all of the space probes combined, including
our manned trips to the moon.
Hubble was especially
designed to be operational for many years, but its replaceable components were dependent on routine maintenance by visiting
astronauts. By ignoring this amazing eye on the stars, we are in danger of losing it forever.
It is tragic that the
Bush Administration is so intent on military dominance in space, that it is willing to shut off a program as valuable as Hubble.