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Servicing Hubble Important For Astronomy

09 Mar 2005

AMERICAN ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY PRESS RELEASE

March 9, 2005

AAS Calls Servicing Hubble Important for Astronomy, Urges NASA to Stick with the Decade Plan

Today the American Astronomical Society, the major professional organization for professional astronomy and space science researchers in the United States, released a policy statement on the servicing of the Hubble Space Telescope. The text of the statement is included below.

In releasing the statement, President Robert Kirshner stated, “I am personally very disappointed with NASA’s current plan not to service HST. You can be sure we will work with them to help realize the goals of astronomers as carefully worked out through our decade plan. We know that NASA is committed to doing the world’s best astronomy and servicing Hubble with the Shuttle is part of the best program.”

The statement confirms the value of HST for the science of astronomy and views the decision not to service the Space Telescope as a disappointment. If serviced, and if the instruments that are already built were installed, HST could continue its tremendous contributions to science and to public understanding.

The AAS statement goes on to concur with the view of the NRC Committee to Assess Progress toward the Decadal Vision in Astronomy and Astrophysics namely, that the priority of ongoing space science missions at NASA be maintained. The AAS states that should a HST servicing mission have adverse budget consequences on other space science missions then NASA should include the various space science research communities in an assessment of the relative scientific merit of all impacted missions.

Finally, the AAS renews its long-term approval of NASA’s commitment to maintaining a world-class astronomy program and pledges to continue to work with NASA to ensure the broadest possible research program within the Vision for Space Exploration.

AAS Statement on Hubble Space Telescope Servicing

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has been the crown jewel in NASA’s science programs for over a decade. Its accomplishments have revolutionized our understanding of the universe in which we live, and it has inspired a new generation of students and the public at large with its discoveries. This remarkable performance can be expected to continue if HST is serviced. NASA’s recently announced decision to forego any option to service the HST is therefore viewed with considerable disappointment by the American Astronomical Society and the astronomical community. While we recognize that HST’s mission must end at some time, the fact that a servicing mission was a part of NASA’s planned activity, and that two key replacement science instruments are already developed to enable important and exciting new science, makes this decision particularly unfortunate and difficult to accept.

Much of the success of NASA’s space science program is due to strong community involvement in planning and setting priorities based upon scientific merit and relevance to a coherent science program. Therefore, the AAS strongly concurs with the view advocated by the recently released report of the NRC Committee to Assess Progress Toward the Decadal Vision in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Specifically, that NASA should continue with the missions and programs as prioritized in the NRC report “Astronomy and Astrophysics in the New Millennium.” In particular, should a HST servicing mission have adverse budget consequences, the AAS urges NASA to include the space science communities in an assessment of the relative scientific merits of all impacted missions, in line with the decadal survey process.

Finally, the AAS notes that HST is a component of a dynamic, exciting, and evolving set of astronomy and space science missions. We applaud NASA’s continuing commitment to maintaining a “world-class astronomy program”, as expressed in Acting Administrator Gregory’s testimony on February 17, 2005 to the House Science Committee. This commitment is an essential element of the Vision for Space Exploration, and the AAS stands ready to work with NASA to assure that strong programs in space science continue as NASA implements the Vision.