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This is wrong

January 23, 2005

I was a kid when we landed on the moon.  There are no words for the inspiration I felt watching video of our presence on another world.  It really did seem as if anything was possible – so much so that it has become part of our language.  “If they can send a man to the moon…”

Arthur C. Clarke said recently: “One thing I wouldn’t have predicted about the 20’th century was that we’d go to the moon… and then stop.”

But manned space missions aren’t a lot of bang for the buck scientifically speaking.  At this time, robots are a giant bargain – they go out into the cold depths of space, send back mountains of useful data, and they never take coffee breaks.  If one of them is destroyed, no one gets all weepy.  Except…

One robot has returned more than anyone ever expected: the Hubble Space Telescope.  The payoff in hard science has been far out of proportion to what it cost.  With a repair mission, it is in a position to keep handing down the bounty for another decade.  But the Bush administration has pulled the plug.  Nasa is being instructed to concentrate on safely destroying the premier scientific instrument of our time.

A house source says: “It’s going to really upset the Hubble crowd, and that includes some members of Congress.” 

The “Hubble crowd?”  Yes, Virginia, there are people who just don’t get it.  They don’t know the value of hard basic science, and they don’t know a bargain when they see it.  They’d rather please the crowd with multi-billion-dollar stunts that return little of scientific value.  They’re the opposite of the “Hubble crowd.” 

A replacement is planned for the Hubble, but it will not have the Hubble’s wide-spectrum versatility.  And the Hubble is already up there, doing a great job.

I don’t want to think that the president of the United States can’t grasp scientific issues.  But I don’t know what else to think.

(Thanks to UTI for the link)

Categories: News, Science & Technology
  1. Pine Bark
    January 23, 2005 at 18:04 | #1

    Dubya’s actions scream so loudly that we can’t hear what he says.

  2. January 23, 2005 at 20:01 | #2

    Good post. The anti-intellectualism of BushCo is puzzling. For the US to marginalize science makes about as much sense in the context of our national security and future, as South Africa ridiculing and discouraging geology.

  3. January 24, 2005 at 00:14 | #3

    Maybe this time we’re getting excited without appropriate warrant.  I just looked over the SSB and ASEB’s report on options for extending the life of Hubble.  Apparently Hubble was never expected to have a life span that extended beyond 2007-2008.  Moreover, Hubble was supposed to receive far more maintenance than it in fact has as a result of the grounded shuttles.  Though I don’t know the current status of Hubble, it wouldn’t be too surprising to me if it was in fact the case that the Hubble has gotten so run down the last few years that it is no longer reasonable to keep it functional. 

    However, the further point that the Bush administration and science seem to be incompatible seems to stand.  Then again it seems like political figures, especially those who lean to the right, in general tend to creatively report scientific findings.

  4. January 24, 2005 at 00:17 | #4

    P.S. The report I mentioned can be found at:

    http://www.nap.edu/books/0309095301/html/

  5. WeeDram
    January 24, 2005 at 13:01 | #5

    Point well taken, Socialist Swine, but the fact that the Hubble IS repairable, provides stellar scientific knowledge and is better than its replacement would be, means that fixing it would represent spectacular value.  Of course, it doesn’t direclty contribute to Ballistic Missle Defense, so…

    WeeDram

  6. January 24, 2005 at 15:48 | #6

    The repairs for the Hubble are already constructed, and ready to be transported and installed.  They’ll even give the big H new capabilities.

    The argument that it’s past its original planned lifetime doesn’t wash… so is the Pentagon, thrown together in emergency circumstances in WWII but we have upgraded it and it remains useful today.  So with the Hubble – it is not the same device that was originally launched, having been upgraded and repaired all along.

    I’ve been thinking about who should push the button to destroy Hubble.  I nominate gutless Sean O’Keefe, the NASA head – who has no science background and is leaving to be the chancellor of a university.  It would be a fitting last act for him as head of NASA.

  7. January 26, 2005 at 13:07 | #7

    The point about the Pentagon was a good one.  I must admit that I’m not much of an astronomer so I don’t know much about Hubble, but from the wording of the report it sounded like Hubble had gotten really run down.  Anyhow, it is a shame that they’re bringing it down.  Are they planning to replace it in anyway?

  8. January 26, 2005 at 13:30 | #8

    They are planning a replacement but it is a more narrow-spectrum device.  It will be useful but not versatile like the Hubble.

    Because light travels at a finite speed, the Hubble is also a window into the early universe > 10^9 years ago.  So it yields insights on cosmology and physics as well as expanding our knowledge of what’s out there.

    It really isn’t in that bad of shape – one mission would set it back in the pink.  The replacement and upgrade parts are all wrapped up in mylar waiting to be delivered and installed.

    Compared to the Mars <strike>stunt</strike> mission the cost is trivial.  At least against the glare of about 8 million bucks an hour in Iraq.

  9. January 29, 2005 at 21:51 | #9

    From out here in the Bible Belt, I’m guessing they don’t want the thing looking around anymore. It just might find something that proves God is not a Baptist or Evangelical.

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