NASA is worried it’s far too risky.

Offer Declined

NASA’s groundbreaking Hubble Space Telescope is on its last legs.

Ongoing issues with the aging spacecraft’s remaining gyroscopes, which help point in the right direction, have forced scientists to limit its scientific operations, according to a Tuesday update, with teams preparing for “one-gyro operations.”

And while billionaire space tourist Jared Isaacman, who already circled the Earth inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon, has offered to foot the bill for a Hubble maintenance mission — the last one took place in 2009, before the end of the Space Shuttle program — NASA has now turned him down.

Basically, the agency is worried Isaacman and his collaborators may end up doing more harm than good.

“After exploring the current commercial capabilities, we are not going to pursue a reboost right now,” said NASA astrophysics director Mark Clampin, as quoted by CBS News. While NASA “greatly appreciates” their efforts, “our assessment also raised a number of considerations, including potential risks such as premature loss of science and some technology challenges.”

However, the door isn’t entirely shut just yet.

“So while the reboost is an option for the future, we believe we need to do some additional work to determine whether the long-term science return will outweigh the short-term science risk,” Clampin concluded.

Thanks, But No Thanks

It’s yet another intriguing development in the ever-changing relationship between NASA and the burgeoning private industry it’s increasingly relying on for access to space.

As NPR reported last month, NASA spent years hemming and hawing over Isaacman’s offer to visit the Hubble.

The entrepreneur and trained fighter jet pilot, who was the commander of the first all-civilian mission into space, which saw a crew of four circle the Earth inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft in September 2021, has been calling for a maintenance mission, arguing that “the ‘clock’ is being run out on this game.”

Isaacman will also attempt to perform the first-ever private spacewalk later this year.

But plenty of concerns remain, with NASA pointing out that SpaceX’s Crew Dragon isn’t exactly designed for such a mission, and lacks several core features over NASA’s Space Shuttle, which was used to service the Hubble five times between 1993 and 2009.

For one, it doesn’t have an airlock or a robotic arm, which could make repairing the Hubble difficult.

Besides, even during NASA’s servicing missions, astronauts came nail-bitingly close to permanently damaging the space telescope.

Instead, NASA is looking for ways to eke out just over another decade of life out of the Hubble, without a SpaceX-enabled visit.

“We updated reliability assessments for the gyros… and we still come to the conclusion that (we have a) greater than 70 percent probability of operating at least one gyro through 2035,” Hubble project manager Patrick Crouse told reporters on Tuesday.

More on the Hubble: NASA Experts Concerned Billionaire Space Tourist Will Accidentally Break Hubble Space Telescope While Trying to Fix It