How An Aging Telescope Could Give Russia An Edge In Deep Space Research

“We can only fix the Hubble with space shuttles, which aren’t in service anymore. When something inevitably breaks on Hubble, we won’t be able to fix it. If that’s a critical component, we will lose our only set of ultraviolet eyes in space.”  

By Laura RiceFebruary 8, 2016 3:34 pm| ,

The Hubble Space Telescope has been in orbit for more than a quarter of a century. NASA says Hubble has made more than a million observations and data from it has been used in well over 10,000 scientific papers.

But the Hubble isn’t getting any younger and it’s expected to go out of commission sometime in the next handful of years. What happens then? Russia thinks it has the answer. And American researchers might not be so happy to hear it.

According to published reports, Russia is well into its own program called Spektr UF, a project they’ve worked on since the 1980s to analyze ultraviolet light in the formation of stars in galaxies near and far.

Steven Finkelstein, assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Texas at Austin, says continued research with a Hubble-like satellite, even if Russia’s in charge of it, would be a good thing.

“We want to keep our eyes open in that regime of the wavelength spectrum,” he says.

After Hubble breaks down, some say Russia could have a monopoly on deep space research. Finkelstein says that might be the case.

“We can only fix the Hubble with space shuttles, which aren’t in service anymore,” he says. “When something inevitably breaks on Hubble, we won’t be able to fix it. If that’s a critical component, we will lose our only set of ultraviolet eyes in space.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.