(Washington, D.C.) - According to a letter to U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Admiral Harold W. Gehman, former Chairman of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) has endorsed a "deep and rich" study on whether to extend the life of the Hubble Telescope. Colorado Congressman Mark Udall (D-CO), who is sponsoring House Resolution 550, which calls for the formation of an independent panel to conduct such a study, welcomed Gehman's remarks.
"I am pleased that Admiral Gehman agrees that a 'deep and rich study of the entire gain/risk equation' is required to determine the best course forward in servicing the Hubble Space Telescope," said Udall, who is a member of the House Science Committee's Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee. "I strongly believe NASA Administrator O'Keefe should ask an independent panel to undertake this study. Only through such an independent review will it be possible to assess all our options for safely servicing Hubble."
Earlier this year, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe announced that he was canceling the next scheduled servicing mission of the Hubble Space Telescope because of safety concerns. On January 21, Senator Mikulski wrote to O'Keefe and urged him to reconsider his decision and to appoint an independent panel of outside experts to fully review and assess all the issues surrounding another Hubble servicing mission. O'Keefe asked Gehman to provide his views regarding the safety and risk factors outlined in the CAIB report. Gehman's views are outlined in the letter which was made public today.
Udall said that Gehman's remarks provide critical support for saving the Hubble Telescope. "I am not prepared to accept such an arbitrary cancellation of the planned servicing mission to the Hubble in the absence of an independent review. Just yesterday, we had yet another reminder of the ways Hubble continues to rewrite the astronomy textbooks and fundamentally alter our worldview. We should do all that we can in a responsible fashion to ensure that this capability is not lost prematurely."
[Mr. Udall's complete statement and a copy of Admiral Gehman's letter can be found at: http://www.house.gov/science_democrats/releases/hubble_materials.pdf]