Hubble Space Telescope is in trouble after gyroscope failure

Image    The Whirlpool Galaxy is one of the most famous images Hubble captured

Image The Whirlpool Galaxy is one of the most famous images Hubble captured

"The gyro that failed had been exhibiting end-of-life behavior for approximately a year, and its failure was not unexpected; two other gyros of the same type had already failed", NASA officials said in the statement. Although science operations are expected to resume fairly soon, the current issues raise concerns about the future of the invaluable scientific instrument.

If the team can't bring the malfunctioning gyroscopes back, it'll switch to operating with one or two gyroscopes, Osten said. Upon powering on the third enhanced gyro that had been held in reserve, analysis of spacecraft telemetry indicated that it was not performing at the level required for operations.

The Hubble Space Telescope is now operating in safe mode, with all science operations suspended, after one of the three gyroscopes used to aim the telescope failed on Friday 5 October.

Dr. Rachel Osten, deputy mission head for the Hubble Space Telescope, tweeted, "Very stressful weekend". As a result, NASA put Hubble into a safe-point mode.

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"Don't worry, Hubble has many great years of science ahead", says Kenneth Sembach, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, which operates Hubble. An Anomaly Review Board made up of experts in the field will also convene to investigate and figure out a recovery plan. While the mode offers less sky coverage at any particular time, there is a relatively limited impact on overall scientific capabilities.

The telescope, which travels the Earth at about five miles per second - equivalent to driving from America's East to West Coast in just 10 minutes - faces out to space to take pictures of planets, stars and galaxies to help scientists learn about the solar system.

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.

Ultimately, getting the gyroscope up and running would be the best-case scenario here.

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The telescope is known to be nearing the end of its active life, with the James Webb Space Telescope - now scheduled for launch no earlier than 2021 - slated to be its successor.

Astronomers have recently been talking about how they can extend Hubble's life so that it could continue to serve the astronomy community. Nial Tanvir of Leicester University in the UK.

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

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