NASA Debates Hubble Servicing Mission Safety Concerns

Taken from SpaceNews.

WASHINGTON — SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is performing well enough on orbit to give NASA confidence that the mission can last until August, an agency official said June 9.

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Space News Correspondent
posted: 10 August 2006
11:48 am ET

Despite the success of NASA’s second shuttle flight since the 2003 Columbia tragedy, the decision to launch astronauts to the Hubble Space Telescope remains uncertain as top agency officials debate its safety.

The shuttle Discovery’s near flawless STS-121 mission in July completed NASA’s return-to-flight effort and demonstrated that post-Columbia safety improvements appear to be effective.

But NASA Administrator Mike Griffin said mission managers and engineers must complete a thorough analysis of Discovery’s mission — and launch the upcoming STS-115 flight aboard Atlantis in late August — before deciding whether a Hubble spaceflight is safe to fly.

“No one wants to do a Hubble flight more than I,” Griffin said after Discovery’s six-astronaut crew landed July 17. “But we do not want to get ahead of ourselves. We want to go about things in the right way.”

After initially canceling the fourth — and final — Hubble serving mission in 2004, NASA backpedaled to study possible robotic flights to the space observatory before returning to the original, astronaut-crewed plan.

That plan, if approved, calls for a team of astronauts to launch toward Hubble no earlier than December 2007, possibly using the Atlantis orbiter, Hubble officials have said.

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