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11 October 2018, 09:32 | Dale Webster
The Hubble space telescope has watched the skies for nearly 30 years
The Hubble Space Telescope had to be placed into safe mode after it encountered a major issue on Friday, Oct. 5.
Hubbleentered safe mode after one of the three gyroscopes (gyros) actively being used to point and steady the telescope failed. Until the problem has been fixed, the telescope has been put into 'safe mode, ' suspending its scientific experiments. For now, NASA hasn't offered any timeframe on when can we expect Hubble Space Telescope to come back into operation.
The Hubble telescope has three pairs of two gyroscopes, with each pair consisting of a primary and back-up gyroscope.
The telescope is now operating on two of these enhanced gyros. Thus, each problem brings the telescope, one of the most famous and productive observatories in the history of astronomy, one step closer to its eventual end.
"The gyro lasted about six months longer than we thought it would", said Hubble deputy mission head Rachel Osten in a tweet.
Hubble is now down to two working gyroscopes and needs at least three for optimal operations but it can continue to provide observations with just one functioning gyroscope.
Hubble has made numerous outstanding observations of the cosmos since it was deployed in 1990.
Hubble's successor, James Webb, the large space American telescope after successive delays, will not be launched before 2021.
The failed gyroscope has already been showing end-of-life behavior for about a year, NASA said on its website. In particular, the telescope's gyros have often failed in the past, so having one fail now is not unexpected.
The gyroscopes on Hubble are small spinning wheels that rotate the spacecraft and keep it stabilized.
Unfortunately, one of the gyros in reserve also experienced a malfunction while ground control was trying to turn it on this weekend.
The plan "has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain", Osten said, adding "there isn't much difference between 2- and 1, and it buys lots of extra observing time".
If not, the spacecraft will simply move on, running a "reduced-gyro" mode that uses only one spinning wheel.
On their last servicing mission in May 2009, astronauts replaced all six of Hubble's gyroscopes.
The official Hubble Twitter account echoed this sentiment, tweeting that the telescope was "built with multiple redundancies", and that even though it is left with just two gyros, it can work with just one.
Stunning space images taken from the Hubble telescope.
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