Hubble's continued operation has been dependent on manned servicing missions using the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) shuttle fleet. The fleet was grounded in early 2003 following the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia, as NASA focused its efforts on responding to recommendations made by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB). In January 2004, NASA announced its decision to cancel the final planned Hubble servicing mission, primarily because of safety concerns. Without some type of servicing mission, NASA anticipates that Hubble will cease to support scientific investigations by the end of the decade. NASA's decision not to service the Hubble prompted debate about potential alternatives to prolong Hubble's mission and the respective costs of these alternatives. This report addresses the basis of NASA's cost estimates to (1) service Hubble using the shuttle and (2) implement recommendations made by the CAIB. GAO is continuing its work on the Congressional request that GAO examine the potential cost of a robotic servicing mission to the Hubble Telescope.
Skip to Highlights