Hubba, Hubba, Hubble, Hubble!

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NASA just announced that the Hubble repair mission is a "go".

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – NASA will send a space shuttle to repair the 16-year-old Hubble Space Telescope, agency Administrator Michael Griffin announced Tuesday, reversing his predecessor's order that had nixed the mission.

Griffin's announcement was greeted eagerly by astronomers who feared Hubble would deteriorate before the end of the decade without new sensors and replacements for its aging batteries.

The rehab mission, likely launching in May 2008 using space shuttle Discovery, would keep Hubble working until about 2013.

The Hubble has captured some of the most spectacular images of the universe, popularizing astronomy while at the same time advancing our understanding of space.

It has enabled direct observation of the universe as it was 12 billion years ago, discovered black holes at the center of many galaxies, provided measurements that helped establish the size and age of the universe and offered evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.

"The Hubble telescope has been the greatest telescope since Galileo invented the first one," said U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., a fierce champion of Hubble, which is operated out of Maryland. "It has gone to look at places in the universe that we didn't know existed before."

The repair mission crew will include three veterans of the last Hubble mission, in 2002, and four astronauts on their first space trip, Griffin said.

Former NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe had canceled a Hubble repair mission in the wake of the Columbia shuttle disaster that killed seven astronauts in 2003. O'Keefe believed the risks were too great and the remaining shuttle missions should focus on completing construction of the international space station.

Griffin, however, said Tuesday that he was convinced the Hubble mission could be conducted after the last three shuttle flights demonstrated astronauts' ability to inspect the spacecraft inflight and make repairs, even in hard-to-reach places.

That news will generate much joy in the astronomy world. I know quite a few space enthusiasts will also be happy. Excuse me a moment, I have to go do a happy dance.

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