Press Release

American Astronomical Society Supports Congressional Call for Review of Hubble Servicing Mission Cancellation

By SpaceRef Editor
January 22, 2004
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In a statement released today, the American Astronomical Society, the largest professional scientific association
for astronomers and astrophysicists, has endorsed the congressional call for a review of the decision to cancel
future Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions.
The president of the American Astronomical Society, Dr. Catherine A. Pilachowski of Indiana University said:
“Astronaut safety is always a prime consideration for any space mission, but the Hubble space telescope is the
most productive telescope of all time and a clear source of national pride. We must carefully weigh all possible
solutions to servicing the Hubble while implementing the recommendations of the Columbia Accident
Investigation Board regarding shuttle safety.”

Dr. Sidney Wolff, the chair of the society’s Committee on Astronomy and Public Policy and former director of
the National Optical Astronomy Observatory agreed, saying “As astronomers, we are not experts on safety, but
we do know that Hubble plays an absolutely vital role in our field. The congressional call for a review of the
decision to cancel future servicing missions will allow the public to understand the decision process and
possibly provide a forum for creative alternatives to be discussed.”

The AAS statement, adopted today, is given below in its entirety.

American Astronomical Society Statement on the Cancellation of Future Hubble Space
Telescope Servicing Missions

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has inspired a generation of Americans with its scientific achievements.
Since its launch in 1990, HST has explored the Universe, ranging from our own solar system to the most distant
galaxies.

In the eyes of the public as well as in the judgment of professional astronomers, both nationally and
internationally, HST represents the finest of the countless contributions the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA) is making to science.
While the American Astronomical Society places paramount importance on astronaut safety, the astronomy
community deeply regrets the cancellation of future servicing missions at a time when HST continues to make
fundamental discoveries at an undiminished rate.

Thus, the AAS supports the congressional call for an independent panel of outside experts to review the
decision to limit prematurely the lifespan of the Hubble Space Telescope. Such a decision must consider all
possible options for accomplishing the servicing mission and must also be widely understood. We hope that
such a review panel can be convened in a timely manner and its work completed quickly.

We urge that any process to reconsider the decision to cancel Servicing Mission 4 include as one of the
considerations the future scientific contributions afforded by HST. These are outlined in part by the HSTJWST
Transition Panel Report.

We further note that sustained HST operations are essential to reap the full benefits of NASA’s other Great
Observatories in space, the Chandra X-ray Telescope, launched in 1999, and the Spitzer Infrared Telescope,
launched just a few months ago. Only if HST operates at full capability through 2009 do we have the
opportunity to take advantage of the scientific synergy of these three Great Observatories, examining
astronomical sources across the electromagnetic spectrum in X-ray, visual, ultraviolet
and infrared light.

The Hubble Space Telescope is an international treasure that has inspired the people of America and the world
for nearly 15 years. Its impact, not only on science, but on the dreams and imagination of our young people,
cannot be overstated.

The Astronomy and Physics Division will make use of its considerable investment in the existing science instruments already built for SM4, the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and the Wide Field Camera 3, by offering them wholly or in part as government furnished equipment for missions in the next call for MIDEX proposals. A peer review competition will determine the best use of
these highly valued scientific assets.

The Astronomy and Physics Division is keenly aware of the value of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) and will continue to support its important functions. These include the support for the grants programs and assistance to the community with HST data, as well as the independent research activities carried out by institute staff. Space Telescope Science Institute has shown that science assets are best managed by scientists with a vested interest in those assets. As a measure of the Institute’s success, the concept of science institute, invented at STScI, has been successfully copied for NASA’s other Great Observatories, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and the
Spitzer Space Telescope.

Finally, the Astronomy and Physics Division is doing everything in our power to ensure that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) receives all the resources necessary to support a 2011 launch. Our aim is to make sure that the only pacing item in the JWST schedule will be the rate of technical progress and not resource availability. To that end we have informed the JWST
Project Office that they will be fully funded at their requested levels for the detailed design and construction phases of the observatory. Furthermore, we have instructed them to inform us about items that might accelerate parts of the program or significantly reduce risks associated with the development of the observatory.

Sincerely,

Anne L. Kinney and the Astronomy and Physics Division

NASA Headquarters

Statement from Dr. Steve Beckwith, Director Space Telescope Science Institute

The Hubble Space Telescope has been NASA’s most scientifically productive mission, and it has been NASA’s centerpiece of astronomical research from space. Its images of the heavens have made it an international icon of astronomy, inspiring people all over the world and helping educate millions of children, the next generation of scientists. Three successive National Academy Decadal
Survey panels have endorsed Hubble as an essential tool of modern astrophysics.

The decision to end Hubble is a blow to astronomy and to NASA’s efforts to engage a larger public in its mission of exploration and discovery. Never in the history of astronomy has society shut down its most powerful optical observatory before a successor was ready.

The Space Telescope Science Institute stands ready to maximize Hubble’s scientific impact for as long as possible, whether by the the original plan, some modification thereof, or some totally innovative approach. Our staff will work with NASA and the community to find ways to maintain Hubble’s tremendous productivity, carry out the scientific goals planned for its final years of life, and keep Hubble contributing to our knowledge of the universe.

Steven Beckwith

Director, Space Telescope Science Institute

SpaceRef staff editor.