Risk of breaking: NASA is afraid to allow the billionaire to fix Hubble

The Hubble veteran space telescope, which has been serving astronomy for 34 years, is already worn out and has been breaking down frequently lately. That’s because the last time of its service was 15 years ago. Therefore, due to various technical problems, its scientific activities are often stopped for weeks or even months. To save the low-orbit observatory, space tourist Jared Isaakman, who already traveled to space on the Crew Dragon spacecraft, offered to finance a mission to maintain the aging telescope. 

Illustration of the Hubble repair mission using the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft

Of course, this is a very tempting offer for NASA. But the space agency is still picky about this idea. Barbara Grofic, head of NASA’s astrophysical program, noted that such an offer was certainly financially beneficial, but very difficult to implement. Former Hubble operations expert Keith Kalinowski believes that Isaakman’s plan is generally too risky.

Expert opinions

The current program director of the International Space Program, Dana Weigel, also noted that NASA’s balanced views differed significantly from private space companies, including SpaceX, which were willing to take risks in order to achieve their goals quickly. The Hubble also has a very sophisticated design to make it easy to repair. Dana’s words were confirmed by astronaut Scott Altman, who took part in the repair. He also expressed concern about possible risks and stressed that NASA had always taken care of safety.

Hubble repairs during the Servicing Mission 04. Photo: NASA

Astronaut John Grunsfeld, who participated in previous repairs of the space observatory, believes that it may be better to request funding from Congress and the US Administration to conduct a mission to restart or improve Hubble with the participation of a commercial partner, where NASA will manage the process.

Isaacman rushes to save Hubble

Isaacman, the commander of the first fully civilian space mission in September 2021, insists on conducting a maintenance mission, noting that time for planning is limited. He plans to carry out several more missions under the Polaris program, including the first ever private spacewalk during the Polaris Dawn mission.

Illustration of the Hubble repair mission using the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft

NASA is still considering working with Isaacman and SpaceX, exploring all aspects of possible missions. Agency experts expressed concern that SpaceX does not have the experience to carry out such highly complex repairs, because even approaching Hubble with its massive solar panels can be extremely risky. Therefore, SpaceX must first prove that astronauts can safely go beyond the Crew Dragon capsule.

Now the telescope is still in working condition, and its operation is planned until the 2030s.

Earlier, we talked about interesting facts concerning the Hubble Space Telescope.

According to npr.org

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