CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.—NASA yesterday announced it no longer will send shuttle missions to service the Hubble Space Telescope, likely cutting three or so years off the revolutionary machine's previously planned retirement date of 2010.
NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe told project scientists the decision was made to minimize risk to shuttle crews in the wake of last year's Columbia accident.
After the accident, an investigation board recommended that astronauts have the capability to inspect and make repairs to the shuttle's thermal protection system when not docked to the international space station. The difficulty of developing that capability for a single shuttle flight not bound for the station, combined with this week's decision to retire the fleet by 2010, helped drive the decision.
Truly some of the most spectacular images of the heavens. Take a look at NASA's Hubble web site and prepare to gasp in wonderment.