By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor
A petition website calling for the Hubble Space Telescope to be saved is attracting a growing number of hits.
Thousands have signed the petition
www.SaveTheHubble.com was established by University of Brasilia lecturer Fernando Ribeiro following the US space agency's decision to abandon the scope.
"I hope it will become a forum about Hubble's prospects and a launch pad (so to speak) for a campaign to save it."
Left alone, Hubble, called the most important scientific instrument ever, could only survive another three years.
Astronomers were stunned when Nasa's chief, Sean O'Keefe, decided on 16 January to cancel the fifth, and final, visit of the space shuttle to service the Hubble Space Telescope (HST).
A service call is essential to ensure Hubble's smooth operation until the end of the decade.
The telescope has only three working gyroscopes, down from its complement of six, and cannot afford to lose any more.
O'Keefe decided that in the wake of the Columbia disaster it was unwise to send astronauts on a shuttle mission that could not reach the safety of the International Space Station in the event of a problem.
Dismayed astronomers understood O'Keefe's logic, but many pointed out that there would now be a gap of several years between the demise of Hubble and its replacement reaching orbit.
They also wondered if there was any way to save the telescope.
Noise from Brazil
In Brazil, Fernando Ribeiro also wondered if Hubble could be saved.
"The HST is such an important, complex, fascinating and cost/benefit effective instrument that it is hard to imagine someone could ever suggest it should be dumped into the ocean, let alone Nasa itself," he told BBC News Online.
"I am fan of science and of space. I was standing in front of a huge black and white TV set when Neil Armstrong took the small step (or the giant leap if you prefer) on the Moon. I was seven and never forgot the thrill of the moment."
Fernando Ribeiro wants to save the Hubble Space Telescope
Mr Ribeiro first heard about Hubble's demise from the internet.
"I sat in front of the monitor and stared at it for several minutes recollecting all the facts I knew about Hubble; its planning, building, the flawed mirror, the device to fix it, the book I had: Gems of the Hubble. I thought about the loss it meant to the whole human race."
So www.SaveTheHubble.com was born.
"I imagined that it could be a good idea to build up a site where people could voice their feelings and ideas about the whole story. My role would be to put together as many references as I could about the struggle to save the telescope.
"There has been an exponential growth of the public outcry in favour of the instrument, and it is just the beginning. Since the matter is obviously political, public pressure will certainly play a big role, especially in an election year."
The petition will be sent to Nasa and US politicians.
"Let the voters say: 'We don't want to go to the Moon! We want to go to infinity and beyond!'," said Mr Ribeiro.