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Published: Tuesday, 3/30/2004

Hubble fan has a helpful plan

BY ROBIN ERB
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Oregon fifth grader Kari Stausmire is filmed by a <i>Today Show</i> camera for an appearance this week. Oregon fifth grader Kari Stausmire is filmed by a <i>Today Show</i> camera for an appearance this week.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

Talking to Kari Stausmire, you get the impression that if anyone is going to solve the problems with the Hubble Space Telescope, it could be her.

This week, the Oregon fifth grader will share her ideas with the nation.

"There's a ton of people in our school," she said yesterday during a taping for the Today Show. "If everybody just donated 50 cents, it'd be a lot of money after a while."

The crew of the NBC morning show, shown locally on WNWO-TV, Channel 24, dropped by Starr Elementary School to talk to Kari and her teachers for a show that will air later this week.

Kari and other students in Terri Hook's science class have been learning about Hubble during

their study of space. Launched into orbit 375 miles above the earth in 1990, the Hubble has sent a stream of detailed photos, logging thousands of galaxies billions of light-years away.

But time has taken its toll on the 24,000-pound apparatus. Its batteries are running low and its gyroscopes, which enable it to point, are wearing out. Citing safety concerns, NASA scrapped the manned service mission to the Hubble last year.

Under current conditions, it will most likely cease operations sometime between 2006 and 2008.

"The Columbia accident changed the way we do business with the shuttle," said Dwayne Brown, NASA spokesman.

But in part prompted by the out

cry by supporters of Hubble's work, the space agency now hopes to reschedule the mission, using robots instead of humans, Mr. Brown said.

These were the things on Kari's mind one day after school last month when she logged onto her home computer, tapped into a Hubble Web site, and typed these words: "Our school would like to donate money to keep the telescope up and working. If you could, please help us by sending us some info on where to send the money ..."

Granted, hers is a simple plan. But it is infused with the kind of unwavering optimism that comes from a fifth grader with a sweet smile and pink sneakers just purchased for her first brush with national fame.

Just how much would it cost to keep the telescope orbiting? Ms. Garcia asked.

"A lot," Kari replied.

The Today Show producer pressed for more: How much is a lot?

Kari didn't flinch. She smiled.

"I can't count that high."

Indeed, it's not clear just how much the money from northwest Ohio would do. NASA estimates Hubble's annual budget at $230 million to $250 million.

But NASA appreciates the thought.

"NASA," Mr. Brown noted, "is about inspiring the next generation of explorers."

Contact Robin Erb at

robinerb@theblade.com or

at 419-724-6133.



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