Hubble Space Telescope Goes Into 'Safe Mode' After Failure of Another Gyroscope

Hubble Space Telescope Goes Into 'Safe Mode' After Failure of Another Gyroscope

Hubble Space Telescope Goes Into 'Safe Mode' After Failure of Another Gyroscope

It said Hubble went into "safe mode" on Friday because of the failure of another of the six gyroscopes used to orient the telescope.

As a result, Hubble remains in so-called safe mode and all science observations are on hold. That would permit one of the two gyros to be turned off, preserving its life until it's needed when the other fails.

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.

"Three of them were on and one was off", Sembach said.

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'It's true. Very stressful weekend, ' Rachel Osten, Hubble's deputy mission head at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, said on Twitter. We typically figure out what's happening and figure out an appropriate course forward.

"The first step is to try to bring back the last gyro, which had been off, and is being problematic", Osten said on Twitter.

The 28-year-old telescope has had trouble with its gyroscopes before. Three of them are now considered unusable.

Normally, Hubble requires three gyroscopes to stabilize its orientation and function properly.

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Denser pockets of gas and dust, however, can resist this erosion for longer. The current problem, though, is a reminder that, with the retirement of the shuttle, NASA now lacks a means to fix or upgrade Hubble.

"Not really scary, we knew it was coming", she added. There is a third gyro that might be able to work, but last time NASA tested it there were some issues. Let's just hope the brilliant people at @STScI can recover the third. There isn't much difference between 2- and 1, and it buys lots of extra observing time. "Which the Astro community wants desperately", Osten tweeted. Precise pointing is crucial: Astronomers use the telescope to peer deep into the cosmos, revealing faraway solar systems as well as galaxies and black holes.

The Hubble Space Telescope is in an uncomfortable predicament.

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.

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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.

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