The National Academies this afternoon released an interim letter report from the committee that is undertaking an assessment of options for extending the life of the Hubble Space Telescope. The committee was established by the NASA Administrator in response to Congressional concerns over his January 2004 announcement that NASA would undertake no further servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope. It was asked to assess the viability of a Shuttle-based servicing mission to Hubble, survey other available options, including a robotic servicing mission, and to provide a benefit-risk assessment of whether either type of servicing mission is worth the risks involved. The committee's final report is expected to be completed this fall.
Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), Ranking Democratic Member on the Science Committee responded to the committee's interim report by saying: "We owe the National Academies panel a vote of thanks for their public service. They have provided clear and timely guidance to NASA and Congress that will help us evaluate both NASA's FY 04 Operating Plan and FY 05 Budget Request. In particular, I am impressed by their strong endorsement of the scientific value of servicing Hubble and their recommendation 'that NASA commit to a servicing mission that accomplishes the scientific objectives of the originally planned NASA servicing mission SM-4.'"
Rep. Nick Lampson (D-TX), Ranking Member on the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, added: "I agree with the panel's conclusion that 'a shuttle flight to the HST is not precluded by or inconsistent with the recommendations from these two NASA advisory groups' [the Columbia Accident Investigation Board and the Stafford-Covey panel]. I hope that the NASA Administrator will comply with the committee's recommendation that NASA take no actions that would preclude a space shuttle servicing mission to Hubble."
Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO), who was the lead sponsor of House Resolution 550 that called for an independent review of the Hubble servicing issue, reacted as follows: "The report warns that 'substantial resources' will be required in FY 2005 for a robotic servicing mission. I hope that the Appropriations Committee will recognize the importance of this funding and agree that by leaving doors open both to a robotic and a human servicing mission, we can significantly improve the odds that Hubble will be saved."