"Hubble's Heroic Future" --Trump White House Mulls Sending a Manned Spacecraft to Upgrade the Space Telescope (VIDEO)
President Trump’s advisers are considering an industry proposal to send a manned spacecraft to link up with NASA’s pioneering orbiting telescope — comparable to five earlier repair missions by the now-retired space shuttle fleet stretching back to 1993. The mission meets the Trump team’s guiding principle on dramatic but relatively inexpensive space projects that can be easily understood by average Americans.
In the NASA image below, two astronauts work in the payload bay of space shuttle Columbia in March of 2002, completing upgrades to the Hubble Space Telescope. The mission was the fourth visit to Hubble since its launch in 1990. A crew of seven astronauts performed five spacewalks, adding an advanced camera, new solar panels, new steering equipment, and a more efficient power system to the orbiting telescope.
The discussions are still preliminary, no specific plans have been drafted and senior White House aides or administration advisers currently overseeing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration could veto the concept. Decisions about any potentially major NASA initiative await the appointment of a new agency head, according to industry and government officials.
The Hubble repair proposal appears to meet still other important White House criteria to put a lid on federal expenditures for space by fostering public-private partnerships, while devising projects that can be completed within the President’s current four-year term.
The concept was put forward by Sierra Nevada Corporation, a closely held company based in Sparks, Nevada, according to those familiar with the details. The company seeks to use a manned version of its winged spacecraft, called the Dream Chaser, that is already under development to ferry cargo and experiments to and from the international space station before the end of the decade.
Sierra Nevada is betting that the Trump administration’s enhanced interest in commercial space projects — including transition memos extolling the potential benefits of manned missions orbiting the moon — could revive Hubble’s rejuvenation bid. The company twice presented its proposal to transition officials, a person familiar with the details said.
An administration spokesman said transition officials lacked power to approve new projects and “it will be the responsibility of the NASA administrator to set NASA policy”.