Photo: Encyclopaedia Britannica / UIG Via Getty Images
The Hubble Space Telescope conducts experiments again after a mechanical failure paralyzed the groundbreaking observatory for three weeks
In a statement released on Saturday, NASA officials said the telescope was brought Friday, and carried out its first experiment since October 5. For almost three decades, Hubble has been credited with expanding the understanding of the solar system and its formation.
HUBBLE DOWN: NASA is working to repair a groundbreaking telescope
On October 5, after the failure of one of its six gyroscopes, the telescope went into "safe mode", causing the telescope to operate for extended periods of time shows exactly as it sends back data to scientists. The failure was not unexpected, as he had "behaved for about a year at the end of his life," NASA officials said at the time.
Failure brought the total number of lost gyroscopes to three. Hubble only needs three gyroscopes to be fully operational, and the October 5 outage would have left the telescope with the necessary three – except for another spinning at excessively high rates, NASA officials said. It had been switched off before.
But NASA says it has fixed the problem and is putting protective measures in the room so that it does not happen again.
"Last week, Hubble's operation team ordered numerous maneuvers or revolutions to be made and switched the gyro between different modes of operation," said the space agency's Saturday statement. This "successfully solved what was considered blocking between components within the gyroscope that generated the excessively high rate values."
Astronomers are undoubtedly relieved. In the era in which NASA operated its own space shuttles, astronauts were able to operate the telescope five times before the Shuttle program was closed in 2011. NASA has no way to bring astronauts to the telescope for repair.
The telescope can work with two or even just one working gyroscope, albeit at a lower functional level.
Also Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, bothers.
Originally scheduled for 2007 Webb has been delayed until March 2021 – assuming it is approved by Congress after development costs have exceeded the 8 billion mark of 2011. NASA estimates that it now costs $ 9 billion.
Webb aims to revolutionize the understanding of the world of planet and star formation.
Alex Stuckey writes about NASA and the environment for the Houston Chronicle. You can reach them at email@example.com or Twitter.com/alexdstuckey.