The Hubble Space Telescope - responsible for capturing some of the most powerful images of deep space - is in safe mode following a series of component failures. However, even with only one, he is still able to make some observations of the sky.
It is equipped with six sophisticated, high-speed gyroscopes to help it move from target to target and to provide data needed to keep the telescope solidly locked on while its cameras and spectrometers collect data. That's the error engineers are working to fix now, with the instrument in safe mode to allow them to run tests.
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. Three of those were of a new design meant to last much longer than the previous designs.
If ground control can again get the third enhanced gyro to assume normal operations, the science operations will resume in a standard triple-gyro fashion. It's been peering into the depths of space for almost three decades now, and while it's had a few hiccups in the past, it's always managed to push through them and continue providing humanity with incredible observations. For now, NASA hasn't offered any timeframe on when can we expect Hubble Space Telescope to come back into operation.
If it can't be recovered, Hubble will go into one-gyro mode, and hold the second working gyro in reserve.
Sembach said everyone wants to be careful in attempting a fix. In particular, the telescope's gyros have often failed in the past, so having one fail now is not unexpected.
Two of the enhanced gyros are now running.
Hubble entered safe mode after one of the three gyroscopes (gyros) being used to point and steady the telescope failed last week.
"So things closer in in the solar system than, say, the orbit of Mars, that would be more hard", he said.
While NASA says that reduced-gyro mode would have "relatively limited impact on the overall scientific capabilities", some astronomers are concerned that the reduced-gyro mode could adversely affect some types of observations, such as of solar system objects, that require the precision of three-gyro operations.
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