May 112009

The space shuttle Atlantis is on its way to the Hubble Space Telescope. If the planned repairs are successful, Hubble may get another five years or more before it has to be decommissioned. Originally, the plan was to return it to the Earth, but in the wake of Columbia, that has been deemed to risky… now, it will be deorbited, to ensure that its large mirror (which is not expected to burn up in the atmosphere) doesn’t fall on an inhabited area. But hopefully, that is still many years away.

I saw the package that is now in the belly of Atlantis when I was at Goddard last summer. Well, maybe not quite the same package as, after the repair mission was postponed, I believe they added a few bits to it, but still, it’s largely the same.

Sadly, this mission may also be the very last really useful mission of the shuttle fleet. That is not to say that they won’t fly several more missions… but they are all to the International Space Station, and while I am an enthusiastic supporter of manned space exploration, flying meaningless circles in low Earth orbit just isn’t it… it’s a waste of money, and a pointless risk to the astronauts’ lives.

 Posted by at 6:30 pm