Robot Rescue

Considered for Hubble

* "Let's go save the Hubble."

That's what the head of NASA said in announcing that robots may be sent to repair the old, but amazing, space telescope.

Sean O'Keefe, who is in charge of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said yesterday the robotic rescue mission would cost between $1 billion and $1.6 billion to repair the telescope that has taken thousands of pictures of what outer space looks like.

Without repairs, Hubble would stop working by 2007 or 2008. Earlier repairs to the Hubble have been done by astronauts aboard space shuttles. But after the shuttle Columbia disaster in February 2003, NASA decided it wasn't safe to have astronauts do the repairs anymore. In January, O'Keefe said that Hubble basically would be allowed to die.

But thousands of people, including lots of kids, didn't want that to happen and they began e-mailing NASA with suggestions for saving the Hubble, which is about the size of a school bus. The robot most likely to be sent Hubble is a two-armed Canadian machine named Dextre, short for dexterous.

A final decision on a rescue won't be made until next summer.

Hubble photographed Cone Nebula.