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People, Not Robots: Panel favors shuttle mission to Hubble

Sharply challenging NASA on the issue of safety in space, a National Academy of Sciences panel last week recommended that the space agency use astronauts to repair and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope rather than send a robotic device under a plan that the agency has been promoting.

The academy committee, charged by Congress to study how to best and most safely service the 14-year-old orbiting Hubble observatory, concluded that there isn't enough time to develop a sophisticated, never-before-attempted robotic mission before Hubble's batteries are likely to give out in 2007. The robot would need to replace Hubble's batteries and gyros and possibly install new instruments. A hastily prepared robotic mission might even damage the telescope, the panel notes.

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