APS News


Use the Space Station to Save Hubble

I read with interest Ernie Tretkoff’s article about the controversy over the fate of the Hubble Telescope. Two facts stated in the article struck me as providing a possible solution to the problem of keeping the Hubble alive, as follows:

The President’s budget allocates $93 million for the Hubble Space Telescope, but $75 million of that amount would go towards developing a robot to steer the telescope safely out of its orbit . . .

The President’s budget does include space shuttle flights to the International Space Station.

Why not spend the $75 million to develop a robot to steer the telescope safely to the International Space Station, send up a repair team to fix it there, and use the robot to put it back in orbit? As I recall, one of the original justifications for the Space Station was exactly this kind of mission. What a triumph this could be! Save the Hubble telescope and demonstrate the value of the Space Station, all with minimum budget impact. Why not?
Alexander J. Glass
Berkeley, CA

Pertinent References Omitted

The letter from Roy Weinstein in your March 2005 issue, regarding the appearance of a Lorentz-contracted object, would have been more complete if it had included one or more of the pertinent references to this discovery:

James Terrell: The Clock Paradox, Los Alamos Document LA-DC-2842, April 1957 (submitted to Nature, but not published).

James Terrell: Invisibility of the Lorentz Contraction, Bull APS 4, 294 (April 30, 1959).

James Terrell: Invisibility of the Lorentz Contraction, Phys Rev 116, 1041–1045 (Nov 15, 1959).

V. F. Weisskopf: The Visual Appearance of Rapidly Moving Objects, Physics Today, Vol 13, No. 9, 24–27 (Sept. 1960).

James Terrell: The Terrell Effect: Invisibility of the Lorentz Contraction; Editorial Note and Letter to the Editor, American Journal of Physics 57, 9-10 (Jan.1989.)

R. Penrose: The Apparent Shape of a Relativistically Moving Sphere, Proc. Camb. Phil. Soc. 55, 137–139 (1959).

This (originally) surprising result is evidently still not well-enough known, and should not be allowed to vanish into obscurity and oblivion. It has led to a considerable number of subsequent papers.
James Terrell
Los Alamos, NM

Editor’s Note:

After receiving the letter from James Terrell, we received a further communication from Roy Weinstein, pointing out that his original letter contained a reference to Terrell’s work, which was omitted in the version we published. Since APS News is not a scholarly publication, we often (though not always) edit out references in footnotes. In this case, the effect was to slight Terrell’s contibution and also to make Weinstein appear uncharitable, neither of which we intended. We apologize to both authors

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff