Space telescope Hubble has failed

Hubble space telescope fails and goes into'safe mode

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration said Hubble went into "safe mode" after one of the three gyroscopes actively being used to point and steady it failed.

NASA was quick to offer reassurance: "Hubble's instruments still are fully operational and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come", public affairs officer Felicia Chou wrote in an update on the NASA website. After rumors of mission downtime began circulating on Twitter, Dr. Rachel Osten of the Hubble team confirmed that something is wrong with the telescope's gyroscopes, which it uses for orientation.

We know that the unit has a total of six gyroscopes, because it was designed with multiple redundancy of all systems.

The Hubble Space Telescope in low-orbit around Earth.

Two of Hubble's gyroscopes are working fine, Sembach said.

Launched aboard the shuttle Discovery in April 1990, Hubble is one of the most scientifically productive spacecraft ever built, generating a steady stream of astronomical discoveries and iconic photos familiar to millions around the world. Spacewalking shuttle astronauts replaced all six in 2009 during the final servicing mission. Although science operations are expected to resume fairly soon, the current issues raise concerns about the future of the invaluable scientific instrument.

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Staff at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute are conducting analyses and tests to correct the issue and return the mission to normal operation.

According to BBC News, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is Hubble's designated successor, but it has experienced a series of delays and will not launch until 2021, at the earliest.

Gyroscopes are needed to keep the 340-mile-high (540-kilometer-high) Hubble pointed in the right direction during observations. Assuming the team can rescue the malfunctioning gyroscope, Hubble will resume operations in its standard three-gyro configuration.

Two gyros of the same type had already failed. 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 awesome observations.

The plan "has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain", Osten said, adding "there isn't much difference between 2- and 1, and it buys lots of extra observing time".

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