Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
Sci-tech | By Laverne Osborne

NASA reboots Hubble into safe mode

NASA reboots Hubble into safe mode

The dead gyroscope is the third standard one to fail.

The telescope's non-essential systems have been turned off - and all science observations are on hold. The Hubble Space Telescope has been sidelined by a pointing system failure. Right now HST is in safe mode while we figure out what to do.

It's been used to date the galaxy and study black holes but now NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is taking a break from activities due to a mechanical fault.

"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.

NASA said on October 8, 2018, that the Hubble Space Telescope has been in "safe" mode - that is, not in an operational mode - since Friday, October 5, shortly after 6 p.m. EDT.

All science operations with the Hubble telescope are now suspended while NASA investigates the anomaly.

The agency, though, said it didn't expect Hubble to cease operations any time soon, as its instruments and other key components are working normally.

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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.

But, while Osten shared on Twitter that it has been a "very stressful weekend", she also assured the general public that "we knew it was coming", and that this gyro actually lasted longer than the team had initially planned for.

'We'll work through the issues and be back'.

Now one of the remaining three isn't working as expected, leaving Hubble with just two working gyros and it needs at least three for optimal operations. Ideally, Hubble would use three of them simultaneously "for maximum efficiency", but it can continue making observations with one, the agency said in another tweet.

The current fault had been anticipated because the gyroscope had been "exhibiting end-of-life behavior for approximately a year", according to NASA.

"The plan has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain". NASA said that, while this option offers less sky coverage at any particular time, there is relatively limited impact on Hubble's overall scientific capabilities.

If the team can't get one of the other gyroscopes up and running, then Dr. Oster explains that they will take Hubble down to one gyroscope.

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