Hubble Telescope in coma! NASA eyes fix for glitch?
- Hubble Telescope has been in safe mode since October 25. Now that James Webb Space Telescope is ready to be launched, will NASA look to fix glitch?
It has been more than 10 days of darkness for astronomers ever since the Hubble Telescope crashed and went into a coma. Many loss of specific data synchronisation messages showed it was ailing. However, this is not the first time that the Hubble Telescope has faced a glitch and pronouncing it dead, or thereabouts, may well be a little presumptive. Hubble had gone into a month-long shutdown earlier in July as its payload computer that controls all the equipment stopped working. They had to get the backup going, which too was not in great shape.
However, this time is different. The new James Webb Space Telescope is ready for launch and it is meant to replace Hubble in any case. So will NASA spend effort and money on an old faithful?
"The Hubble Telescope team is focusing its efforts to isolate the problem on hardware that commands the instruments and is part of the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling Unit," NASA said. Engineers examine the circuitry of the power unit that generates synchronisation messages and transmits them on to the instruments.
The 11-tonne Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched in 1991, has recently celebrated 30 years of operation beyond Earth's orbit. The observatory has played a major role in some of the major discoveries of our universe, including its rapid expansion, the evolution of galaxies through time, and the first atmosphere studies of planets outside our solar system.
What is the issue?
On October 23, Hubble Telescope, which has been humanity's eyewitness to the vastness of the cosmos, issued error codes. Engineers reset the instrument after receiving the initial error report from mission control and restarted science operations. However, following that, on October 25, the telescope went into safe mode.
NASA hunting for the fix
Nasa said that its engineers are investigating improvements to instrument flight software that might detect and compensate for lost messages without sending the instruments into safe mode. Ground simulators would be used to test these workarounds to verify they perform as intended.
The team working on the Hubble Telescope is using Infrared camera and multi object Spectrometer to collect data on the issue. The team is currently working to get Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) instrument out of safe mode so that it can begin collecting science data at the start of next week.
Engineers are attempting to recover the spacecraft without putting further stress on it. The team will also look into possible instrument software changes to address the issue in the next week.
The work is definitely on to save the gigantic machine, our eye in the sky, but the countdown has started, not least because the tech on it is that of the last century. And that cannot be replaced.