Heavy Plant

Walk past a "Heavy Plant" warning and wonder vaguely if the trees thought it was for them; if whoever put it up had enough imag...

Monday, April 25, 2005

hubble telescope

The hubble space telescope has been operating for 15 years this week and has taken over 700,000 images most of which are awesomely beautiful and make you feel suitably small and insignificant. They have also advanced the cause of astronomy and cosmology by leaps and bounds, greatly increasing our understanding of the universe (click on pic for more).

Something so good couldn't be allowed to go on indefinitely. Ultimately George W. Bush holds the purse strings for NASA and naturally feels threatened by anything that increases knowledge and understanding. He is running down the maintainence schedule, read cancelling, on Hubble to pay for more ambitious projects (as if you needed another reason to hate him). Namely a return to the moon and a manned flight to Mars, neither of which will tell us anything new about space. It's just being done so that the US can say "We did it first!". It's the national equivalent of "look Mum, no hands!".

The telescope's orbit will soon start to decay and given the amount of valuable kit on board and the size of the thing it will have to be brought down safely. Couldn't they just do some repairs and nudge it back into a stable orbit?

Let us leave aside for the moment the fact that the British contribution to the project was the mirror, which rendered the telescope short sighted for the first year or so of its operational life, and that the European Space Agency has a record of innadequacy and hopelessness bourne of not having even a third of the budget of NASA couldn't we buy or lease Hubble from the yanks just to keep it in service? ESA could use it for practise missions. We could let the Americans do the dangerous exploring bit and we can have the knowledge and understanding bit.

Let's have a whip-round. I'll start us off with a fiver...