Technical glitch hobbles Hubble Space Telescope

Space Telescope was taken on the 5th servicing mission to the observatory in 2009. Image via NASA

Space Telescope was taken on the 5th servicing mission to the observatory in 2009. Image via NASA

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope entered safe mode Friday evening after one of its three active gyroscopes failed. Unfortunately, that could take weeks to accomplish, which means the telescope will stay in safe mode until the team is able to troubleshoot the gyroscope. Until the problem has been fixed, the telescope has been put into 'safe mode, ' suspending its scientific experiments. "The remaining three gyros available for use are technically enhanced and therefore expected to have significantly longer operational lives". But it can continue to provide observations with just one functioning gyroscope. Another gyro failed. First step is try to bring back the last gyro, which had been off, and is being problematic'.

Dr. Rachel Osten, deputy mission head for the Hubble Space Telescope, tweeted, "Very stressful weekend".

NASA said if they are unable to recover the malfunctioning gyro Hubble will resume science operations using just one device.

"While reduced-gyro mode offers less sky coverage at any particular time, there is the relatively limited impact on the overall scientific capabilities", NASA said.

Named after astronomer Edwin P. Hubble, the foremost American astronomer of the 20th century, the sophisticated optical observatory was placed into orbit about 600 kilometers (370 miles) above Earth by the crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery on April 25, 1990. Hubble's pseudo-successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, was supposed to already be up and running for years by this point, but Northrop Grumman's inability to do the job it's being paid billions of dollars to do has caused over a decade's worth of delays.

Failing gyroscopes are not uncommon, so Hubble was equipped with six new ones (which included backups in case of failure) on a 2009 mission to service the telescope, which was launched all the way back in 1990.

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'We'll work through the issues and be back'. The last one was in reserve; it was turned off some years ago after exhibiting some "funny behaviour" even though it was getting the job done, he said.

Two of those enhanced gyros are now running.

The failed gyroscope has already been showing end-of-life behavior for about a year, NASA said on its website.

The news came as a shock to the fans of the venerable space telescope, which has sent down jaw-dropping images and data to address cosmic conundrums ranging from planetary origins to the age of the universe.

"Obviously, we don't want to make things worse", he said.

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