American Astronomical Society Endorses National Research Council Report on 'The Assessment of Options for Extending the Life of Hubble Space Telescope'

Jan 18, 2005, 00:00 ET from American Astronomical Society

    WASHINGTON, Jan. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- In a statement released today, the
 American Astronomical Society, the largest professional scientific association
 for astronomers and astrophysicists, has endorsed the National Research
 Council Report on "The Assessment of Options for Extending the Life of Hubble
 Space Telescope", which calls for a servicing mission to repair the Hubble
 Space Telescope using astronauts and the space shuttle.  The statement of
 endorsement (included below) was approved by the council of the Society at its
 205th annual meeting in San Diego, California from January 9 to January 13.
     The President of the American Astronomical Society, Dr. Robert P. Kirshner
 of Harvard University said, "The Hubble Space Telescope is the most productive
 telescope since Galileo's -- and that was 400 years ago.  It is clearly one of
 the best things NASA has ever done.  The NRC formed a terrific panel of
 experts to weigh the options and they concluded a manned servicing mission is
 the least risky way to extend Hubble's life.  We hope that NASA and Congress
 will undertake that mission, not just for astronomers, but for everybody who
 wants to know what the Universe is and how it works."
     Dr. David Black, the chair of the Society's committee on Astronomy and
 Astrophysics and President of the United Space Research Alliance, agreed,
 saying, "As astronomers, we are not experts on risk, but we do know that
 Hubble plays a vital role in our field."  Black continued, saying, "What
 impressed me about this process was that some members of the committee who
 were not initially in favor of saving Hubble came to see the value of the
 science it produces and, most importantly, the value of the science it could
 produce if serviced."
     The AAS statement is given below in its entirety.
   American Astronomical Statement on the National Research Council Report on
               "The Assessment of Options for Extending the Life
                           of Hubble Space Telescope"
     The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has been a remarkable instrument for
 scientific discovery, of great importance to members of the American
 Astronomical Society, to international science and to the broader world of
 curious people who seek to know what the Universe is and how it works.
 The long-awaited Servicing Mission (SM)-4 to install powerful new instruments
 and to extend the productive life of HST was suspended while NASA dealt with
 the consequences of the Columbia accident.  Congress directed NASA to request
 a study by the National Research Council (NRC) of HST servicing options,
 evaluating both a shuttle mission and a possible robotic mission.
     The final report ( of the NRC
 Committee on the Assessment of Options for Extending the Lifetime of the
 Hubble Space Telescope was released on December 8, 2004.  The NRC report is
 extensive and wide-ranging.  The three major recommendations set forth in the
 report are:
      1)  The committee reiterates the recommendation from its interim report
          that NASA should commit to a servicing mission to the Hubble Space
          Telescope that accomplishes the objectives of the originally planned
          SM-4 mission.
      2)  The committee recommends that NASA pursue a Shuttle servicing mission
          to HST to accomplish the above stated goal.  Strong consideration
          should be given to flying this mission as early as possible after
          return to flight.
      3)  A robotic mission approach should be pursued solely to de-orbit
          Hubble after the period of extended science operations enabled by a
          shuttle astronaut servicing mission, thus allowing time for the
          appropriate development of the necessary robotic technology.
     The American Astronomical Society (AAS) endorses the work of this
 distinguished committee and its conclusion that the lowest risk HST servicing
 mission is a manned servicing mission as originally envisioned for SM-4.
     In calling for a manned servicing mission, the AAS reaffirms its position
 statement "On the Cancellation of Future Hubble Space Telescope Servicing
 ( in which
 the Society called for an independent panel to review the options, stressed
 placing paramount importance on astronaut safety, and asserted that the Hubble
 Space Telescope has had an impact, not only on science, but on the dreams and
 imagination of our young people that cannot be overstated.  The NRC Committee
 has admirably balanced those concerns and brought forth cogent

SOURCE American Astronomical Society