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Mission to Save Hubble Space Telescope.

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Hubble Space Telescope.
Hubble Space Telescope: Image credit: University of Maryland.

NASA announced on Tuesday that it was officially considering sending a robotic mission to save the Hubble Space Telescope, instead of de-orbiting it in a few years. The agency has called for proposals from the aerospace community to come up with a robot that can be controlled from the ground, and perform the complex upgrades and repairs that previously required astronauts. They need to hurry, though, since the observatory is expected to begin failing around 2007.

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe today announced the agency's decision to pursue the feasibility of a robotic servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). NASA initiated the first step toward enabling such a mission with the release of a Request for Proposals today. The due date for proposal submissions is July 16, 2004.

"This is the first step in a long process of developing the best options to save Hubble," Administrator O'Keefe said. "We are on a tight schedule to assure a Hubble servicing mission toward the end of calendar year 2007. But we must act promptly to fully explore this approach."

Although the primary goal of a robotic mission is to install a deorbit module on the HST, NASA is studying the feasibility of performing other tasks. The tasks could include installing new batteries, gyros and possibly science instruments that would enhance the observatory's ability to peer even more deeply into the universe. The final decision about specific robotic tasks will be made after all proposals have been thoroughly reviewed.

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