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Hubble in safe mode after gyro failure

11 October 2018

NASA placed its venerable Hubble Space Telescope into a "safe mode" on Friday evening because of gyroscope problems, the space agency confirmed Monday. "At any given time, Hubble needs three of its six gyroscopes operating to ensure optimal efficiency", NASA says.

Bottom line: The Hubble Space Telescope has been in safe mode since last Friday evening, following the failure of one of the gyros that helps stabilize it. NASA is analyzing the problem and hopes to resume operations soon.

"The first step is to try to bring back the last gyro, which had been off, and is being problematic", Osten said on Twitter.

"We knew it was coming", Osten added.

'The gyro lasted about six months longer than we thought it would (almost pulled the plug on it back in the spring). "We'll work through the issues and be back", she wrote.

The Hubble Space Telescope in low-orbit around Earth. The safe mode is meant to keep the telescope "precisely pointed" for a long duration, the space agency explains, stating that experts are working on fixing the problem.

More than 30 astronauts have flown to Hubble to deploy, upgrade and fix the observatory with the support of a human spaceflight and space shuttle staff. Thousands of astronomers from dozens of countries have used Hubble and analyzed its data to produce more than 15,000 peer reviewed papers to date.

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IN SPACE - MAY 13: In this handout from NASA, the Hubble Space Telescope is grappled to Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-125 by the shuttle's Canadian-built remote manipulator system May 13, 2009 in Space.

Responding to a claim that the safe mode was "scary news for the most famous telescope in history", Dr Osten downplayed the issues. The remaining three available for use are technically enhanced, and, therefore, are expected to have significantly longer operational lives.

Though three gyroscopes are ideal, the telescope can be used on only one.

NASA's preference, the post said, is to return Hubble to service in its standard three-gyro configuration.

"Broken gyro worked badly for about a year, and its failure was not a surprise".

Two of those enhanced gyros are now running. It will only use one of its remaining functioning gyros, which will limit its sky coverage.

In 2020 NASA will launch Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, a more powerful instrument that will offer astronomers unprecedented views of the cosmos.

Hubble in safe mode after gyro failure