What to Do With Hubble?

Image credit: NASA

The Hubble Space Telescope, one of the most important scientific instruments ever created, is entering the final chapter of its life, and NASA is trying to figure out what they should do with it. The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990, and it’s expected to continue operations until 2010, when it’s replaced by the James Webb observatory which will launch in 2011. NASA has convened a special panel of experts to determine the best way to handle the transition.

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is one of the most important scientific facilities of NASA and indeed of the world. The HST has created enormous interest in astronomy and in space science, contributing in the process fundamental scientific discoveries related to the origins of the universe, the structure and evolution of the universe, and the exploration of the solar system. The scientific community has endorsed the James Webb Space Telescope as the next generation space telescope, the natural successor to the HST. It is a necessary task to consider exactly how and when to terminate the operation of this successful scientific experiment.

Currently, the end of Hubble operations is planned for 2010, and the launch of JWST is planned for late 2011. In principle, HST operations could be enhanced through continued servicing by the space shuttle. In fact, servicing may be essential to reach the 2010 target date. However, servicing missions by the shuttle are expensive and inherently dangerous.

NASA would like to assess the scientific impact of its current plan for effecting the transition from HST to JWST in the context of its overall space science program. In addition, NASA would like to determine if there are modifications to this plan that may better address key scientific issues within the constraints provided by the agency?s strategic plan and budget.

To this end NASA has chartered a panel of senior community members, with John Bahcall serving as chair, to review agency plans and to receive community input on the HST – JWST transition topic. The links below lead to the panel’s charter, membership roster, information about a public meeting on the topic and pages for people to provide the panel with their views via email. [Input closed August 13, 2003]

The final report from the HST-JWST Transition Panel may be found here.

Original Source: NASA Status Report