Jumping To Conclusions 101

Bruce Garrett illustrates horrible logic with his piece on the retirement of the Hubble Space Telescope. Not only does he get the facts wrong, but he comes to an entirely fallacious conclusion.

First of all, the reason why the Hubble servicing mission has been scrapped has nothing to do with Bush’s new directive for NASA. The real reasons are a bit more complex.

After the Columbia tragedy, the Accident Investigation Board determined that any Hubble servicing mission would require two shuttles. One to actually perform the mission and a second rescue shuttle. Clearly this would be a massively expensive operation. The concerns over both cost and safety outweighed the desire to keep Hubble operational. Before the accident, Columbia was the only shuttle use in Hubble servicing missions as it was too heavy to obtain the same orbit as the ISS and therefore could be used for Hubble without delaying ISS construction.

Furthermore, Hubble should be able to operate for the next few years, and a replacement is due by 2011. At that point the ISS should be complete and by 2014 the Crew Expedition Vehicle should be available to make future space telescope servicing missions.

Even better, a telescope on the dark side of the moon could be far larger than Hubble and produce even better images – with a moon base, that project become feasible for the first time.

It’s clear that while many will mourn the loss of Hubble, and I’m one of them, concerns over safety and cost in the wake of the Columbia tragedy were the reasons for this plan. However, what does Garrett see this portending?

The end of an era in deep space exploration draws to a close. The era of the total militarization of space dawns.

Where does one go with this? There will be a new space telescope in a few years. NASA is still in charge of space and last time I checked was a civilian agency. Of course, when you’re arguing from a sense of manufactured outrage, who needs things like the truth?

NOTE: Mr. Garrett does work on the HST program, which explains some of the outrage, but still does not mean his arguments are any more valid.

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