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Hubble rescue seen as costly, uncertain

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Trying to save the famed Hubble Space Telescope with a robot would cost $2 billion with just a 50-50 chance of success, an aerospace research group is expected to tell NASA in the coming days. That thumbs-down is likely to be preceded by another potentially negative finding from the National Academy of Sciences, expected in a report today.

Both reports could spell doom for the popular, aging Hubble, whose fans have lobbied heavily to get it repaired to prolong its life and continue its stream of stunning and revealing pictures from space.

NASA requested the reviews of the National Academy and the Aerospace Corp., a California-based nonprofit research group, in hopes that a robotic repair could be made.

An Aerospace Corp. summary provided to the academy estimates a robotic Hubble mission would cost $2 billion and would take at least five years to be ready for launch. By then there would be a less than 40 percent chance that Hubble still would be functioning.

Less than three years would be needed to launch a shuttle mission to Hubble, for no more money and with the usual medium probability of mission success, the company said.

The full 100-page report is expected to come out this week or next, a company spokesman said.

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe has insisted that regardless of what the academy or the Aerospace Corp. says, no people will risk their lives to fix Hubble.

Today, the National Academy of Sciences will issue its final report on the subject.

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