The Hubble keeps eating dollars

The Hubble Space Telescope (Illustration)

Honestly, I was surprised the Hubble space telescope was still in orbit. I would have put a dollar down on the bar and bet you that it had been turned off and allowed to fall from orbit and land on the nearest wicked witch. Well, that shows you what I know.

According to the Internet, this thing still gets money and funding and repair missions. As Miranda might say, WTF?

The space shuttle Atlantis crew on Thursday prepared to embark on the first of five spacewalks during its 11-day mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. After a two-day chase, the shuttle Wednesday captured the telescope with its robotic arm 350 miles above Earth and pulled it into Atlantis' cargo bay for service. The telescope has been latched to a rotating, lazy Susan-type device for five days of repairs and remodeling. An umbilical line has been connected to provide electricity from Atlantis to the telescope, according to NASA. Mission commander Scott Altman also will position the shuttle to allow Hubble's solar arrays to gather energy from the sun and recharge the telescope's batteries. Thursday's spacewalk will begin at 8:16 a.m. ET and is expected to last more than six hours. Astronauts plan to replace a wide-field planetary camera with an updated model and will "install a mechanism for a [future] spacecraft to capture Hubble for de-orbit at the end of its life." Atlantis launched Monday for NASA's fifth and final repair visit to the telescope. It has been seven years since NASA's last mission to service the Hubble, which was designed to go about three years between fixes.

Isn't Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski responsible for this boondoggle? Is this really a wise allocation of money and resources? I am a man of science, and I support the space program. But if you do any thinking on this matter, you come away with a conclusion that a good idea went astray because someone figured out that it was a cash cow:

Hubble cost a fortune: $6 billion and counting. There are things Hubble can do that ground-based telescopes simply cannot, so comparisons are difficult. But even an expensive telescope on the surface costs more than an order of magnitude less. Is it worth it? Many scientists spent their careers working on Hubble, having their scientific progress ground (haha) to a halt, and some even became pariahs because of it. Had it been managed differently, had it been downsized, had it been not such a political tool, how would that have affected the science itself? We can only speculate — which I generally frown upon — but in this case a little retrospection might be good. We’ll be faced with similar decisions in the future, and of course we already are: going back to the Moon, going to Mars, building the Space Station, and more.

Now might be a good time to start asking questions about how money is spent and allocated in this country. That Hubble was a good idea is not the question. The question is, could we have gotten more bang for less buck? Could we have spent a lot less and built several less expensive platforms in order to give more scientists the ability to conduct studies? If so, where else are we hemmoraging money?

Or is the operative question here centered around doing what is best for the people in power at the expense of the rest of the country? Let's put away childish things and figure out where the money is going. Right now, money is being spent and flying out of Washington like shit through a goose.