Gyroscope Malfunction Forces NASA To Put Hubble Into 'Safe Mode'

2006 by the European Space Agency shows one-half of the Hubble Space Telescope field of view with nine stars that are orbited by planets with periods of a few days. Planets so close to their stars with such short orbi

Image Hubble's deep view of the sky has revealed an enormous number of galaxies

It is equipped with six sophisticated, high-speed gyroscopes to help it move from target to target and to provide data needed to keep the telescope solidly locked on while its cameras and spectrometers collect data.

The Hubble Space telescope is now in safe mode.

NASA positioned its acclaimed Hubble Space Telescope in a safe technique due to gyroscope issues the space agency committed on Monday. 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.

Launched in 1990, Hubble has had trouble with its gyroscopes before.

Scientists had already planned to reduce Hubble to using only a single gyroscope at a time once it was down to three, that being meant to prolong the space telescope's lifespan for as long as possible. The last one was in reserve; it was turned off some years ago after exhibiting some "funny behavior" even though it was getting the job done, he said. Mission controllers are investigating the problem and expect to have Hubble working again soon.

"While reduced-gyro mode offers less sky coverage at any particular time, there is relatively limited impact on the overall scientific capabilities", NASA said. It had six new gyros installed during Servicing Mission-4 in 2009. That gyro, which had been powered down, is not "performing at the level required for operations", according to spacecraft telemetry after it was commanded to turn on.

Scientists are now performing analyses and tests to determine what options are available to recover the gyro to operational performance.

"The plan has always been to drop to 1-gryo mode when two remain", Osten said in a Twitter exchange.

NASA's decision to retire its space shuttles in 2011 means that astronauts can not service the 28-year-old observatory as they once did.

'It's true. Very stressful weekend, ' Rachel Osten, Hubble's deputy mission head at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, said on Twitter. If the outcome of this investigation results in recovery of the malfunctioning gyro, Hubble will resume science operations in its standard three-gyro configuration.

The Hubble telescope was launched on April 24, 1990, via the space shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. This past Friday night, Hubble was operating normally with two newer gyros and one older model.

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