The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Friday, December 10, 2004

Lost In Space

Bush, determined as he is to go down in history, is still having wet dreams about a manned Mars mission-- from a scientific standpoint a colossal waste of money, even if it were feasible.

Once again, I turn to physicist Robert Park's newsletter, which today pointed out a very basic problem with the Mars mission vis a vis the very worthwhile Hubble project.

"HUBBLE: NRC CALLS FOR SENDING A SHUTTLE MISSION TO REPAIR IT. The problem was never with the space telescope. The problem from the start has been the Shuttle. Mankind's greatest scientific instrument was built under a NASA decree that anything that goes into space must go there by way of the shuttle. That meant Hubble had to be put in low-Earth orbit, which is far from ideal for observations. Moreover, Hubble was designed for routine
shuttle maintenance visits. NASA said shuttle launches would be weekly, but five or six times a year was the best they could do. After Columbia, O'Keefe decided it's too dangerous for astronauts to service Hubble, we'll have to use robots. But if astronauts can't go to Hubble, how they gonna go to Mars? This week, the National Research Council said it's not likely that NASA could complete development of a robotic mission before Hubble breaks down, and called for a mission of the rebuilt shuttle to repair Hubble. . ."