NASA officials say the failure of Hubble’s equipment means fewer observations

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL (AP) — Hubble Face more problems.

The space telescope went into hibernation more than a week ago when one of its three remaining gyroscopes – part of the guidance system – malfunctioned. The same device had been operating for months, disrupting scientific operations.

NASA said on Tuesday that attempts to repair it had failed and that it would operate with only one gyroscope, which would limit its scientific capability.

This switch will keep Hubble idle until mid-June. The telescope will not be as smart as it used to be and will take longer to focus on targets. Hubble won’t be able to make many observations, but it should be able to continue making discoveries for the rest of this decade and the next, according to officials.

“We don’t see Hubble as being on its last legs,” NASA project manager Patrick Cross said.

Mark Clampin, NASA’s director of astrophysics, said the space agency is not considering a mission to boost the observatory to a higher orbit at this time in order to extend its life.

The billionaire who bought his SpaceX flights has offered to sponsor and carry out the mission. The risks outweigh the potential benefits and more analysis will be needed, Clampin said.

Hubble blasted into orbit in 1990, but the jubilation quickly ended when scientists discovered its vision was blurry due to a distorted mirror. Repairs made by the astronauts have restored our view of the cosmos, enabling the telescope to see ancient galaxies and other gems of the universe in stunning detail.

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Hubble acquired six new gyroscopes during the astronauts’ last visit in 2009, but three of them have not worked for years. The device’s rotating wheels keep the telescope stable and looking in the right direction by tracking Hubble’s rotation and position in space.

One of the remaining two gyros will be used for signaling, while the other remains in reserve for future use.

Hubble’s larger, more powerful successor, the Webb Space Telescope, will launch in 2021.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Education Media Group. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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