Fate of Hubble repair mission to be announced Tuesday

NASA officials met Friday to decide whether to risk a space shuttle flight on a mission to repair the Hubble space telescope.

NASA officials met Friday to decide whether to risk a space shuttle flight on a mission to repair the Hubble space telescope.

Michael Griffin, the agency administrator, is scheduled to announce Tuesday at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., whether the mission will take place.

Although the space agency hasn't said anything officially, University of Wisconsin-Madison astronomer Jay Gallagher, a member of a science team responsible for a camera in the Hubble telescope, says the signs are promising.

The 16-year-old telescope has been repaired four times since its launch in 1990. A fifth repair mission was cancelled after the 2003 space shuttle Columbia tragedy that killed seven astronauts.

NASA officials decided to cancel any future repairs of Hubble, saying it was a matter of shuttle safety. Ifa spacecraftheading to the telescope encountered a problem, there would be no safety net, since the astronautswould not be able to reach the International Space Station from Hubble's orbit.

If Tuesday's announcement gives the go-aheadfor the mission, it could prolong Hubble's ability to capture some of the most spectacular images of the universe well into the next decade. If the repair doesn't take place,the telescope will deteriorate by 2009 or 2010.