Editor's note: This is an internal STScI memo from Steve Beckwith:
A few minutes ago, we concluded a meeting at which Sean O'Keefe, the NASA Administrator, announced his decision to cancel SM4, the next servicing mission to Hubble. It was his decision alone, and I will discuss the details with your personally. I will be holding a town-hall meeting in the auditorium at 3:00 pm today for everyone who is interested to answer your questions about the decision and talk about the future.
Subject: Cancellation of SM4
You've just heard from Randy, and I just finished a long conversation with Dave Leckrone. O'Keefe decided, apparently almost purely for reasons of Shuttle safety, to cancel SM4. Budget was not a driving concern, nor was the new Bush space initiative. (Only the timing was related to the President's announcement.) Code S opposed the decision and had identified sufficient funding to cover the SM4 slippage.
Basically, the problem was that a Hubble Shuttle mission would require special safety procedures to be developed (inspection, etc) that would not be necessary for an ISS mission. (This point seems to be disputed by people in Houston, who were eager to do SM4.) Only ISS missions will be carried out in the future.
John Grunsfeld, the Chief Scientist, was apparently as surprised as most everybody else at the decision. Dave's first inkling was the email sent out by Rogier yesterday. This has been held very close to the vest.
The decision is such that it looks like there is no recourse.
We have been encouraged to think of other productive ways to use WFC3 and COS---maybe on MIDEX's, etc. Looking for bright ideas to salvage something from these excellent instruments.
If the President's initiative is approved, even in its first phase, there will be significant science involved, in which GSFC hopes to participate.
Despite our own fundamental disappointment, we were on the periphery of the project, and our main concern should be for those who spent the last six years of their careers working on it and doing such a beautiful job.
There are plenty of issues to work through, and we should still plan to hold our February SOC meeting.
Regretfully --- Bob
Editor's note: This response was sent after this internal memo was posted online:
Dear Bob, Please allow me to correct an incorrect statement in your letter to the SOC. Code S did indeed identify funding to cover the SM4 slippage. But Code S did not oppose the decision of the Administrator. The decision was based, as you described in your letter, on safety. Code S fully supports the decision.
Sincerely, Anne Kinney
Anne L. Kinney
Director, Astronomy and Physics Division
Office of Space Science