Recommended Hubble Repair Mission Gets Measured Response from Congress

WASHINGTON -- The announcement Wednesday by the National Academy of Sciences that NASA scrap its plan to robotically repair the Hubble Space Telescope and instead plan a manned shuttle mission for the endeavor was met by by congressional leaders with both support and reservations.

Rep. Bart Gordon (Tenn.),the ranking Democrat on the House Science Committee, endorsed the report'scentral recommendation and urged NASA to follow the committee's advice andconduct a shuttle-based servicing mission.

"Their centralrecommendation is unambiguous:  NASA should pursue a Shuttle servicingmission to Hubble," Gordon said in a statement. "I hope that NASA will heed the Academies' assessment and move forwardto implement its recommendations so that Hubble can continue its program ofscientific exploration and discovery for years to come."

Sen. Barbara Mikulski(Md.), theranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations VA-HUD subcommittee and one ofHubble's staunchest defenders in Congress, praised the academy panel butstopped short of embracing the report's call for using the shuttle to serviceHubble. She said she and Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond (R-Mo.),willhold a hearing in February to delve into the academy panel's recommendations.

"I commend theNational Academy of Sciences on this outstanding report.  I fought to add$300 million to NASA's budget for a Hubble servicing mission and I willcontinue to advocate for a mission to take place," Mikulski said in astatement. NASA has the experience, the technology and now it has the money. "It's time to fix Hubble -- Congress and the American people expect nothingless."

 HouseScience Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) also avoided endorsing therecommendation and said that he too would be holding hearings next year.

"The National Academyof Sciences panel, after a thorough study, has reached conclusions that arediametrically opposite to those reached by NASA," he said in a statement. "TheScience Committee will hold hearings early next year to review the Academy'sconclusions and all the options to see whether and how the Hubble SpaceTelescope might continue its path-breaking work." 

NASA's associateadministrator for science, Al Diaz, in an unrelated interview after thereport's release, declined to address the panel's findings and recommendations.

NASA spokesman Robert "Doc" Mirelson said that NASA would "require some time to study the [panel's] recommendations" andin the mean time would continue planning for a robotic mission. He also saidthat NASA would not do anything to preclude a shuttle mission.

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Editor-in-Chief, SpaceNews

Brian Berger is the Editor-in-Chief of SpaceNews, a bi-weekly space industry news magazine, and He joined SpaceNews covering NASA in 1998 and was named Senior Staff Writer in 2004 before becoming Deputy Editor in 2008. Brian's reporting on NASA's 2003 Columbia space shuttle accident and received the Communications Award from the National Space Club Huntsville Chapter in 2019. Brian received a bachelor's degree in magazine production and editing from Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.