NASA's first casualty

After Bush reveals plans to reallocate funds, NASA announces it no longer will service and repair the Hubble telescope.

Published: Friday, January 23, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 22, 2004 at 9:37 p.m.
It could cost as much as $500 billion to fulfill President Bush's mission to Mars.
For the immediate future, however, Bush's mission plan largely consists of reshuffling $11 billion within NASA's budget and directing it toward manned space flight.
Many scientists worry that the reallocation will threaten the future of a number of unmanned space programs that already are engaged in valuable exploration and discovery work.
And sure enough, within a few days of Bush's Mars speech, NASA announced the premature death of the Hubble space telescope.
Orbiting high above the Earth, where it can make its observations free of the distorting effects of the atmosphere, Hubble is almost universally praised for its ability to peer out into deep space.
But NASA no longer will send shuttle missions to service or repair the satellite. It may cease functioning within a matter of months, or it may continue to operate for a number of years.
NASA framed the announcement as a safety issue; since the Columbia disaster, it no longer wants to risk a potentially dangerous resupply run.
But that seems a convenient excuse when you consider that the agency is under the gun to redirect billions of dollars into the considerably more glamorous, if perhaps less scientifically productive, area of manned space flight.
"This is a pretty nasty turn of events, coming immediately on the heels of 'W's' endorsement of space exploration," Dr. Tod Lauer of the National Optical Astronomy Observatories told reporters last week.
The Hubble may be pushing back the frontiers of astronomy, but it does nothing to advance political careers.
Therefore it is expendable.

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