NASA is fighting again to keep the Hubble space telescope running. Wired Reports The Hubble team is slowly resuscitating its telescope after multiple instrument synchronization errors that resulted in a switch to “safe mode” in late October. Engineers reactivated the enhanced survey camera on Nov. 7, but will need to review the device’s output this week before activating other affected components.
The problems started on October 23rd when NASA noticed that instruments were not receiving sync messages from the Hubble control unit. These communication problems lasted for two days and led to the emergency shutdowns. The space agency can’t quickly revive Hubble – rapid changes in performance and temperature risk shortening the telescope’s lifespan.
The outage is the second in 2021 to result in a lengthy shutdown (the June payload failure caused NASA to go into a month-long “coma” in July), and that adds to the previous problems. For example, NASA had to restart Hubble’s gyroscopes in 2018. The assembly problems indicate that the 31-year-old observer is running out of time and no space shuttle is available if a hardware replacement is required.
Astronomers may not be too concerned. The James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to launch on December 18 and could serve as the spiritual successor to Hubble, even if it doesn’t focus on the same wavelengths. Hubble also contributes to significant discoveries to this day. With that in mind, Hubble is effectively signaling that it is ready to pass the torch.
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