NASA announced this weekend that the Hubble Space Telescope is in a protective safe mode. Even if NASA stated recently, on October 8, that the instrument is expected to be ready to work soon, the astronomical community is still worried.
The Hubble Space Telescope has brought new knowledge of the universe since 1990. The news started out as rumors on Twitter but the Hubble’s deputy mission head at the Space Telescope Science Institute, Rachel Osten confirmed the authenticity of the tweets.
The reason behind this decision of putting the work of one of the most iconic NASA’s instrument on standby was taken after a failure in the gyroscopes of the instrument.
“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. “The remaining three gyros available for use are technically enhanced and therefore expected to have significantly longer operational lives.”
Since 2009, Hubble has installed six gyroscopes, three enhanced ones and three standards. The gyroscope that failed is the third standard one that goes down.
By putting on hold the work of the telescope, operators get the time and possibility of fixing the engineer errors and run tests. In fact, one of the three enhanced gyroscopes was reported as nonfunctional after the instrument was tested to run on all three of them.
Even so, The Hubble Space Telescope is able to go back to work since it can work with only 2 gyroscopes.
‘If the third doesn’t spin back up, I wouldn’t be surprised if they drop to 1 gyro mode, keeping the second as reserve.’ astrophysicist Grant Tremblay, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said via Twitter.
“Hubble’s instruments still are fully operational and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come,” the NASA statement reads.