NASA staff working 24/7 to deal with Hubble space telescope issues

Image    Hubble's image of the Pillars of Creation is among the most famous ever taken

Osten also noted that the team has had a "very stressful weekend" and that the Hubble is now "in safe mode while we figure out what to do". NASA's 28-year-old eye on the cosmos is in safe mode after the failure of a gyroscope used to help aim the telescope at its imaging targets.

The telescope was put in a safe mode for self-protection purposes, so it only performs its absolutely necessary functions, while NASA scientists are trying to solve the problem, as the BBC broadcasts and relays the Athenian News agency.

Till then science operations with Hubble have been suspended.

"There isn't much difference between 2- [gyros] and 1, and it buys lots of extra observing time", tweeted Rachel Osten, the deputy mission head for Hubble at the Space Telescope Science Institute, late October 7. But only three gyros are needed for normal telescope operation with the others held in reserve. If the outcome of this investigation results in recovery of the malfunctioning gyro, Hubble will resume science operations in its standard three-gyro configuration.

"While reduced-gyro mode offers less sky coverage at any particular time, there is the relatively limited impact on the overall scientific capabilities", NASA said.

Since its launch, the space telescope has made over 163,500 trips around Earth, more than 1.5 million observations of over 43,500 celestial objects and generated 153 terabytes of data, as per cnet.com.

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Redundancy is NASA's best friend, and so it is with the Hubble Space Telescope as NASA stands ready for failures with backups, and even in some cases, improved backup equipment.

The failed gyroscope has already been showing end-of-life behavior for about a year, NASA said on its website.

Before Friday, Hubble had four working gyroscopes, also called "gyros". Two others have previously failed, most recently in April. These six gyroscopes were replaced during a 2009 fix mission to the telescope.

The Register first noticed a questionmark over Hubble's health during the weekend, when Michigan State University astronomer Jay Strader tweeted rumours that it was in safe mode "following a gyro failure".

'We'll work through the issues and be back'. But Hubble will still be able to do some useful science, and dropping down to one gyro instead of two effectively doubles its lifespan.

The device refused one of the gyros. If Hubble breaks down completely before that date, astronomers will be without a space telescope.

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