One of the most important scientific instruments ever created is in trouble. NASA placed Hubble Space Telescope in safe-mode after a mechanical failure.
The 28-year-old space observatory just lost one of the gyroscopes needed to point the spacecraft. So, the telescope is now operating with only essential functions.
“On Friday, the Hubble Space Telescope went into safe mode due to a failed gyro – used to keep the telescope precisely pointed for long periods,” NASA explained in a tweet on the telescope’s official page.
On Friday, the Hubble Space Telescope went into safe mode due to a failed gyro – used to keep the telescope precisely pointed for long periods. Mission experts are taking steps to return Hubble to great science. More updates will follow.
— Hubble (@NASAHubble) October 8, 2018
NASA has turned off all of the telescope’s non-essential systems. So, observations are now on hold.
The space agency has launched the telescope in 1990.
Hubble has six gyroscopes it uses to point itself and keep itself steady for observations. The space telescope had been operating with only four of them which doesn’t present a crippling failure.
After the gyro failure, controllers tried to switch on a different one, but that was found to be malfunctioning. So now that leaves Hubble with only two fully functional gyros.
Experts are now working to fix the problem because the telescope needs at least three of its gyroscopes to work for optimal efficiency.
Hubble has had trouble with its gyroscopes before. Spacewalking shuttle astronauts replaced all six in 2009.
However, the current plan, according to Dr. Rachel Osten, the deputy mission head for the observatory, is to try and revive a previously failed gyroscope to replace this new failure.
It’s true. Very stressful weekend. Right now HST is in safe mode while we figure out what to do. Another gyro failed. First step is try to bring back the last gyro, which had been off, and is being problematic.
— Dr. Rachel Osten (@rachelosten) October 8, 2018
While scientists are working on the issue we will not forget to keep you updated.