Published: Tue, October 09, 2018
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

Hubble trouble: Deep space telescope in ‘safe mode’ after mechanical fail

Hubble trouble: Deep space telescope in ‘safe mode’ after mechanical fail

Osten said, 'The plan has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain. The Hubble Space Telescope has been sidelined by a pointing system failure.

Hubble's success is due in no small part to five servicing missions flown by space shuttle crews, including an initial visit in 1993 to fix the telescope's flawed optics and the final visit in 2009 that replaced the gyros and provided additional upgrades. Scientists are acutely aware of that today after placing the orbiting observatory into safe mode following the failure of another gyroscope.

NASA announced that one of Hubble's gyroscopes failed last Friday. "If the outcome of this investigation results in recovery of the malfunctioning gyro, Hubble will resume science operations in its standard three-gyro configuration", the agency stated.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is one of the most reliable pieces of hardware ever launched into Earth orbit.

It's impossible to overstate the amount of data Hubble has collected during its 28-year stint in space, and its overall contributions to science.

Gyroscopes are needed to keep Hubble pointed in the right direction during observations.

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"There isn't much difference between 2- [gyros] and 1, and it buys lots of extra observing time", tweeted Rachel Osten, the deputy mission head for Hubble at the Space Telescope Science Institute, late October 7. Staff at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute are now performing analyses and tests to determine what options are available to recover the gyro to operational performance.

Olsten confirmed the problem would not mean the end of Hubble. "Which the Astro community wants desperately".

'The gyro lasted about six months longer than we thought it would (almost pulled the plug on it back in the spring). "We'll work through the issues and be back", she wrote.

The instrument, named after astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble, has been celebrated for its involvement in tracking asteroids, analysing the Kuiper Belt and documenting the nebula of dying stars.

Astronomers have been hoping that Hubble will continue to operate long enough to cover the transition to NASA's next-generation James Webb Space Telescope.

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