BALTIMORE, MD ‚ Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) told a crowd of 500 Space Telescope Science Institute (STSI) employees today that NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe has agreed to her request for an independent review before canceling the final Hubble servicing mission. Admiral Harold Gehman, Chairman of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, will lead the review (see letter attached).

Senator Mikulski requested the second opinion (see letter attached) after NASA announced earlier this month they would terminate the fifth and final servicing mission to the Hubble Telescope. The mission, planned for as early as 2006, is needed to replace the telescope’s batteries, gyroscopes, and other instruments, extending the telescope’s life to 2010. Without the new equipment, scientists estimate that Hubble would stop working in three or four years.

“My view is when someone is told they need major surgery, any prudent person would get a second opinion,” said Senator Mikulski. “That’s what I told Administrator O’Keefe and that’s what he has agreed to do. Hubble has made so many extraordinary contributions to science, exploration, and discovery. We cannot prematurely terminate the last servicing mission without a rigorous review.”

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STSI) employs approximately 500 people and is responsible for operating Hubble and managing its data. In addition, about 350 workers at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Beltsville, Maryland work on the Hubble telescope.

Senator Mikulski is the senior democrat on the Veterans, Housing and Independent Agencies (VA-HUD) Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees NASA’s budget.