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Hubble’s troubles come sooner than feared

Australian scientists are shocked and disappointed over recently announced plans to abandon the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA announced it would cancel shuttle-servicing missions to the giant telescope, due to the risks involved, effectively cutting short its mission. Dr Matthew Colless, director of the Anglo-Australian Observatory was disappointed, saying it would leave a gap for astronomers looking into deep space using the high ultraviolet light range.

Colless said researchers may spend the remaining time on the telescope creating banks of data that could be useful for the future research. But time would be limited for current Australian projects. He said the James Webb telescope, a more powerful telescope that NASA plans to launch within the next 10 years, would not replace the Hubble.

The original plan was that Hubble would go to 2010 and people were hoping to have it extended beyond that. The telescope would continue to operate until one of the gyroscopes that controls where the telescope is pointing breaks down. According to NASA, that could happen at any time.

Dr Simon Driver, a research fellow at the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University, was hoping to gain time on the wide-angle camera that was to be installed in the 2005 servicing mission. Driver said that the telescope was still producing some of the most amazing images seen of deep space, and was currently taking images of the most distant region of space ever seen.

“We will continue to get as much life as we can out of the Hubble telescope,” said NASA chief scientist Dr John Grunsfeld late last week. “It is a sad day that we have to announce this.”