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Hubble in 'safe mode', but science operations suspended

11 October 2018

"Hubble entered safe mode after one of the three gyroscopes actively being used to point and steady the telescope failed".

The Hubble Space Telescope had to be placed into safe mode after it encountered a major issue on Friday, Oct. 5.

The six gyros on the Hubble were replaced in 2009 during the final servicing mission to the instrument by NASA's space shuttle.

Hubble is equipped with six gyroscopes, but it's been operating with only three active gyros. The remaining three available for use are technically enhanced, and, therefore, are expected to have significantly longer operational lives.

The original Hubble Space Telescope image of the famous Pillars of Creation was taken two decades ago and immediately became one of its most famous and evocative pictures.

"In many respects, James Webb is going to be very superior to Hubble, but not in every respect", said Prof.

Dr. Rachel Osten, the deputy head of the Hubble mission, said the first step "is to try to bring back the last gyro, which had been off, and is being problematic". "NASA is working to resume science operations", NASA said in an official statement.

Since its launch, the space telescope has made over 163,500 trips around Earth, more than 1.5 million observations of over 43,500 celestial objects and generated 153 terabytes of data, as per cnet.com.

IN SPACE - MAY 13: In this handout from NASA, the Hubble Space Telescope is grappled to Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-125 by the shuttle's Canadian-built remote manipulator system May 13, 2009 in Space. These six gyroscopes were replaced during a 2009 fix mission to the telescope. Hubble uses its gyroscopes to keep itself aimed precisely at what astronomers are using it to observe.

Should engineers conclude that the enhanced gyro can't be used, leaving only two, controllers plan to shift to an alternative mode that allows the spacecraft to operate with just a single gyro. "We'll work through the issues and be back", she wrote. The telescope only needs three gyros for it to work properly, while the other three are held in reserve in case of failure.

Though the space telescope remains in operation, the malfunction highlights the limited time Hubble has remaining. But Hubble will still be able to do some useful science, and dropping down to one gyro instead of two effectively doubles its lifespan. If Hubble breaks down completely before that date, astronomers will be without a space telescope.

Hubble in 'safe mode', but science operations suspended