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Hubble Space Telescope in safe mode after gyro failure
11 October 2018, 09:35 | Justin Tyler
Image The Hubble Space Telescope is currently operating in safe mode
The Hubble space telescope, which has been in orbit since 1990, has temporarily suspended operations because of a gyroscope failure, the U.S. space agency said Monday.
As a result, Hubble remains in so-called safe mode and all science observations are on hold.
The telescope was put in a safe mode for self-protection purposes, so it only performs its absolutely necessary functions, while NASA scientists are trying to solve the problem, as the BBC broadcasts and relays the Athenian News agency.
If the space agency fails to recover the third gyro, the Hubble Space Telescope will continue to be in operation.
"Mission experts are taking steps to return Hubble to great science", the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said in a tweet.
The telescope is now operating on two of these enhanced gyros.
"In many respects, James Webb is going to be very superior to Hubble, but not in every respect", said Prof.
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. A series of space missions were needed to fix technical problems - affecting the gyroscopes among other things - since Hubble's launch in 1990.
The 28-year-old telescope has had trouble with its gyroscopes before. However, if that does not work, she said that the plan has always been to just use one of the remaining gyros and keep the other one as a reserve. That issue is keeping the spacecraft from resuming normal operations using three gyros. The gyro that failed had been exhibiting end-of-life behavior for approximately a year, NASA said, and its failure was not unexpected; two other gyros of the same type had already failed.
The Register first noticed a questionmark over Hubble's health during the weekend, when Michigan State University astronomer Jay Strader tweeted rumours that it was in safe mode "following a gyro failure".
During the fifth space shuttle servicing mission that took place in 2009, two of the older-generation gyros stopped working, leaving Hubble with only four operational gyros, according to CBS News. And the Kepler space telescope, which has discovered about 70 percent of the confirmed 3,800 exoplanets to date, is running so low on fuel that its handlers recently shut it off, to make sure it has enough propellant left to orient itself toward Earth and beam its latest data haul back to Earth next week.
"So things closer in in the solar system than, say, the orbit of Mars, that would be more hard", he said.
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