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Panel recommends shuttle Hubble servicing mission
Posted: Thu, Dec 9, 2004, 8:13 AM ET (1313 GMT)
Hubble Space Telescope (NASA) A National Academy of Sciences panel announced Wednesday that a shuttle, and not robotic, servicing mission is the only way to successfully repair the Hubble Space Telescope. The independent panel, commissioned by NASA earlier this year to review options for repairing the aging telescope, concluded in a report issued Wednesday that a shuttle mission is the best option for extending the life of the telescope. The report noted that the difference in risk between a shuttle mission to Hubble and one to the ISS is "very small", while a robotic mission would involve a level of complexity "inconsistent" with the schedule required to launch the mission before the telescope falls into an irretrievable state of disrepair. A shuttle repair mission could also prepare the telescope for an eventual robotic deorbiting mission. NASA had originally planned to launch a final shuttle servicing mission, SM4, around 2006, but announced early this year that it would cancel the mission because of concerns about the risk of sending the shuttle there in the post-Columbia safety environment. After protests from Congress and scientists, NASA then said it would develop a robotic repair mission, despite concerns from some that such a mission could be too ambitious and expensive. Leading members of Congress said Wednesday that they plan to hold hearings on Hubble repair plans in early 2005.
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