The old Hubble Space Telescope comes back to life after a malfunction

NASA has done it again. The US space agency has fixed the latest flaw affecting the old Hubble Space Telescope. The observatory is now back in action to uncover the secrets of the universe. “All of Hubble’s instruments are online, and the spacecraft has resumed taking scientific observations.” NASA said In a statement on April 30.

The problem began on April 23 when Hubble entered safe mode due to a problem with one of its gyroscopes. The gyroscope sent false readings, triggering the observatory's sandbox in which scientific operations are suspended. The gyroscope problem is not new. The same gyroscope that caused the recent malfunction also behaved in November with a similar problem.

Hubble has six gyroscopes, but only three of them are operational. Gyroscopes help the telescope point in the right direction to make observations and collect data. NASA has a backup plan that would allow Hubble to continue operating with just one gyroscope, but it did not need to implement this procedure. “The spacecraft is healthy and operational again using all three of its gyros,” NASA said.

Hubble was launched in 1990. It encountered quite a few technical hiccups during its life, including a serious mirror defect that was addressed by a space shuttle mission in 1993. Ultimately, NASA performed five servicing missions, which were The last one was in 2009. NASA no longer operates space shuttles, so it can't send astronauts to fix Hubble when something goes wrong. Troubleshooting must be done from the ground, which makes the team's track record of successful repairs even more impressive.

Technical problems and outdated hardware are not the only challenges Hubble faces. The observatory's orbit is deteriorating. “Restarting Hubble to a higher, more stable orbit could add several years of operations to its life.” NASA said in 2022. The agency is looking into options to stabilize Hubble's orbit, including the possibility of sending a new servicing mission using the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

The Hubble Space Telescope is so old that every technical problem raises fears about its eventual demise. NASA hopes to continue operating the 34-year-old observatory until at least the end of the decade, and perhaps beyond. The powerful new James Webb Space Telescope will launch in 2021, but it is not intended to be a replacement for Hubble. Instead, the two observatories complement each other, and sometimes collaborate on images, as when they both contributed to a stunning view of “Christmas tree” galaxies in 2023.

Hubble's work became iconic, it became famous Pillars of creation An image of the Hubble Deep Field, a historical view of a patch of sky containing 1,500 galaxies. The observatory has searched far and wide to document the planets in our solar system as well as nebulae, galaxies and distant stars. Its mission will end one day, but some clever troubleshooting means that day has not arrived yet.

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