'Goodnight Moon'... second space telescope 'goes to sleep'

Another NASA space telescope shuts down in orbit

Last weekend, news broke that NASA's Hubble Telescope was suffering from an equipment malfunction. At least for a while.

"All systems functioned as expected and the scientific instruments are safe", agency officials wrote in an update today (Oct. 12). "The reason for the transition in secure mode (perhaps it is connected with a gyroscope) is examined once we have more information, we publish it".

A gyro is a device that measures the speed at which the spacecraft is turning, and is needed to help Hubble turn and lock on to new targets.

Barely a week after NASA's Hubble Space Telescope entered safe mode, its Chandra mission has also suffered a glitch possibly due to the failure of the gyroscope, the United States space agency said. The Hubble telescope is created to look at the universe in visible light, the same wavelengths our own eyes can see. Conlon et al. Radio: NRAO/AUI/NSF/Univ. of Montreal/Gendron-Marsolais et al.

Hubble is managed and operated at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

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Its planet-hunting telescope Kepler is nearly out of fuel, as is the Dawn spacecraft. The spacecraft was turned off several times in recent months to ensure that the "Kepler" enough fuel for turning the Ground and sending the received data.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft, which has been orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres since March 2015, is also almost out of fuel and might run out as early as this month. The pioneering probe circled the protoplanet Vesta before its arrival at Ceres. Opportunity has been silent since June 10, when a growing dust storm blocked out so much sunlight that the solar-powered rover couldn't recharge its batteries.

This list of ailments is not an indictment; all of the above spacecraft have outperformed their original requirements and are now well into extended missions. They're crucial for the spacecraft's work, but because they're moving parts they tend to wear out over time.

For example, Hubble still has two functioning gyroscopes and can operate even in one-gyro mode. "Curiosity" can work on the spare "brain" if necessary. And what about Chandra NASA representatives are very optimistic. The final servicing mission in 2009, expected to extend Hubble's lifetime an additional 5 years, has now produced more than 9 years of science observations.

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