Hubble and the Space Program

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I was reading this article at Universe Today and felt it necessary to comment on the state of the space program in this country. I have concerns, you see, and they are legit concerns. Or so I think.The article talks about the repairs that will be done on Hubble in a way that sounds as if the astronauts have better things to do. I’ll admit that they probably do, but it’s also not Hubble’s fault that they have other crap to do. Needless to say, Hubble is getting an upgrade and will be 90 times more sensitive and be capable of picking up over 900 galaxies as its field of vision is being increased. Also, its lifespan is being extended to 2013, with a scheduled decommission date in 2020 (which is part of what I want to discuss). Firstly, I’m glad to hear that they’ll be fixing this amazing satellite. It apparently suffered a power failure in January of last year and is in need of some fixing. Thanks to NASA for fitting it into their schedule.
Here is my concern, though. What does this say for our space program when amazing devices like Hubble, which has produced some of the most beautiful images of space objects we’ve ever seen and helped advance our knowledge of the universe in ways unimaginable, if we can’t fix them in a good time (twelve months seems like a really long time) and are willing to attach a rockets to them and drive them into the ocean? I can’t say I fully understand the logic. Hubble isn’t a cheap piece of machinery. They didn’t make it out of soda cans and old TV parts and broken microscopes from the 50s. Hubble is an amazing technological achievement for us. It’s also incredibly valuable. We’ve poured so much money into this thing. It’s not like throwing out an old television. This is like throwing out an entire warehouse stuffed to the brim with 200 inch TVs with gold plating.
Why is it that we’re having such a hard time with our space program? Where is the innovation or campaigning? I wonder if NASA or anyone else has considered this option:
What if they put a public call out to individuals, organizations, and universities who would be willing to fund Hubble–from the parts to operation to repairs by astronauts? There have to be dozens of universities who would love to get their hands on this fine piece of machinery. If a few hundred universities all over the world sat down and funded a project to maintain Hubble we might see it stay in the sky for decades to come. What is the point in just replacing it? Most people won’t get to use a replacement, so if we could offer Hubble to a wider group of scholarly individuals it would give us an extra eye in the sky. Hubble might not be as powerful as the craft we plan to put in space, but it’s still incredibly useful. We can still learn from it.
I simply have a problem with destroying something as important as Hubble, for any reason. At the very least this piece of machinery deserves to be in a museum. At least then we’d show a little respect for something that has dazzled us with amazing images of the stars. Right now, it feels like we’re crapping on a good friend.

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

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