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I'm fairly sure that the main reason the HST had a recent refit instead of being junked was because it's been such an impressive source of pretty pictures.

I'm no NASA insider to tell the real reasons, but it had something to do with a change at NASA's helm and the fact that HST's successor (the James Webb Telescope) is still years away.

This is not to dismiss the power of the HST pretty pictures, but I don't think anyone in this debate is challenging that. (As I wrote, STScI has its own department for making the PR pretty pictures, and they did a fine job to make people forget the error made in polishing of the main mirror, and the massive cost overruns needed for corrective optics.)

The great thing about these amateur images is that they look Hubble-ish but someone took them from their back garden.

More David Malin-ish than Hubble-ish :-)

What would be immensely cool - and almost certainly won't happen, because it would be too damn expensive - would be for Hubble to become a public access telescope after it's decommissioned.

If it could go on, it wouldn't be decommissioned :-) HST servicing isn't just about the replacement of instruments with improved ones, you have to replace solar cells and positioning gyroscopes. Once NASA stops funding for servicing missions, HST is poised to be dead in a few years, and there is a lot of professional work only it can do until then. (The JWT wll come in what, 2014 at the earliest?) And it's too damn big to be allowed to fall down on its own, so there has to be a controlled crash eventually.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jan 24th, 2010 at 03:42:07 AM EST
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