Status Report

Letter from Sen. Hutchinson to President Bush – Hubble Repair Petition from Former Astronauts

By SpaceRef Editor
May 28, 2004
Filed under , ,

May 26, 2004

The Honorable George W. Bush


The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush:

The Hubble Space Telescope has proven extremely valuable in allowing scientists to discover new planets, confirm the existence of black holes, and determine that the universe is precisely 13.7 billion years old. Hubble has not yet outlived its scientific usefulness, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) does not have a system to succeed it.

The replacement parts needed to keep Hubble operating have already been produced. Should NASA choose robotic transport, installation of parts would be delayed by the expensive and complicated development of mechanical tools. NASA should keep Hubble operational by sending a manned space flight to perform the simple repairs and ensure the satellite’s ability to provide crucial knowledge to our space science experts.

I urge you to consider the enclosed petition signed by 26 United States Astronauts, who have participated in nearly 50 missions, and to complete the full Hubble mission. Thank you for your attention to this matter and for your continuing service to our nation.


Kay Bailey Hutchison

A Petition to The President of the United States of America to



We, the undersigned astronauts, respectfully petition you to direct the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Honorable Sean O’Keefe, to reinstate the Space Shuttle mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. Our reasons are as follows:

1. The Hubble Space Telescope continues to be one of the preeminent achievements of the NASA. A distinguished panel of astronomers judged that Hubble “has arguably had a greater impact on astron-omy than any instrument since the original astronomical telescope of Galileo.” Each day the Hubble Telescope continues to earn this encomium through its stunning contributions to the space sciences. The early retirement of this observatory by the termination of its support missions blinds an incredible probing eye into the mysteries of the universe and the associated vital answers about its past and future.

2. New scientific instruments and other upgrade hardware have already been procured for the Hubble at a cost of approximately $250 million. Putting these devices into mothballs would be a shameful waste and would directly retard scientific progress. Any robotic servicing will require both the development of new and unproven technology and flying a first time ever, unmanned rendezvous and docking mission to the Hubble. “Robotic servicing” would only be able to accomplish a portion of the tasks scheduled for Hubble servicing and would have a lower probability of success. Consequently, a Shuttle servicing mission would be more cost effective than the proposed “robotic servicing.”

3. The Space Shuttle is a magnificent system. The shuttle orbiter will not be returned to flight until NASA believes the problem that destroyed Columbia has been mitigated to an acceptable level, reducing the need for the International Space Station (ISS) as a safe haven. Resolution of the TPS/foam shedding problem will minimize, if not eliminate, any difference in the orbital risk between the Hubble and ISS orbits. With lower launch risk for the Hubble orbit, a lighter payload and identical reentry risk, the Hubble support mission may have a lower overall risk profile than one to the ISS.

4. Most importantly, any consideration of risk must be weighed against benefits. We, the real risk takers, believe the attendant risks of the Hubble servicing mission are no more than the 90 previous manned missions to similar orbits, and are justified by the Hubble Space Telescope’s immense contributions to the space sciences. NASA’s greatness is in no small measure due to its ability to deliver Mission Success in the presence of risk and in the face of the unknown. Astronauts join NASA to challenge the heavens, to advance man’s knowledge of the cosmos and to compete for such coveted flight crew assignments as the mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope.

Sacrificing the Hubble Space Telescope at this stage of the initiative’s development would be putting a damper on some of the greatest advances made to date in our understanding of the universe. Mr. President, each of us has risked our lives to bring about many of those advances, including twenty-seven individuals who have flown in direct support of the Hubble Space Telescope. We, therefore, cannot accept that all our efforts and risks taken were for naught. On behalf of all of the astronauts who have served this nation, and the space scientists who have advanced our knowledge, we implore you to direct NASA to restore the Hubble Servicing Mission to the manifest.

/S/ Loren Acton, STS 51F

/S/ Scott Carpenter, Mercury Aurora Seven

/S/ Gerald Carr, Skylab 4

/S/ Bob Cenker, STS 61C

/S/ Gene Cernan, Gemini 9, Apollo 10, Apollo 17

/S/ Bob Crippen, STS-1, STS-7, STS-41C, STS-41G

/S/ Walter Cunningham, Apollo 7

/S/ Charles Duke, Apollo 16

/S/ John Fabian, STS-7, STS-51G

/S/ Owen Garriott, Skylab-3, STS-9

/S/ Ed Gibson, Skylab 4

/S/ Richard Gordon, Gemini 11, Apollo 12

/S/ Susan (Still) Kilrain, STS-83, STS-94

/S/ Kevin Kregel, STS-70, STS-78, STS-87, STS-99

/S/ Byron Lichtenberg STS-9, STS-45

/S/ Jack Lousma, Skylab 3, STS-3

/S/ Jon McBride, STS-41G

/S/ Carl Meade, STS-38, STS-50, STS-64

/S/ Mike Mullane, STS-41D, STS-27, STS-36

/S/ Donald Peterson, STS-6

/S/ Mario Runco, STS-44, STS-54, STS-77

/S/ Russell Schweickart, Apollo 9

/S/ Richard Searfoss, STS-58, STS-76, STS-90

/S/ Woody Spring, STS-61B

/S/ James van Hoften, STS-41C, STS-51I

/S/ Al Worden, Apollo 15

SpaceRef staff editor.