The Hubble Space Telescope, an instrument launched into space in 1990 and which has since allowed us to observe galaxies, nebulae or planets, is out of service.
NASA has reported that a failure in one of the six Gyroscopes of the space telescope has left Hubble unable to point to the right directions in order to make observations.
This has caused mission scientists to put all science observations on hold.
This isn’t the first time the space telescope has had issues with its gyros.
In fact, astronauts replaced all six of Hubble’s Gyroscopes back in 2009.
Today, three of the devices are now considered unusable.
“I think Hubble’s in good hands right now, I really do,” said Kenneth Sembach, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates Hubble.
“The fact that we’re having some gyro problems, that’s kind of a long tradition with the observatory.”
Gyroscopes are one of the most essential parts of the telescope, as they allow Hubble to point in the right directions during observations, 540 kilometers above Earth’s surface.
And the telescope needs to be able to point precisely in order to allow astronomers to explore the universe as they look at faraway solar systems as well as galaxies and black holes.
In fact, just last week, astronomers revealed that they have discovered what seems to be the first moon outside of our solar system with Hubble’s help.
Since its launch in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has made more than 1.3 million observations.
The Hubble has two gyroscopes that are functioning just fine, Sembach explained. The last gyro was placed in reserve and turned off a few years ago after it exhibited ‘funny behavior’, despite getting the job done.
Experts are treading carefully as a wrong move could leave the telescope crippled.
“Obviously, we don’t want to make things worse,” Sembach said.
To repair Hubble you need a trained repair crew in a mid high LEO with a spacecraft that has two weeks + flight duration, lots of tool stowage, an airlock, a robotic arm. We used to have some of those but none now or on the horizon. #saveHST
— Wayne Hale (@waynehale) October 8, 2018
As noted by experts, the space telescope usually gets the job done with three gyros, but it could even work with one or two, something Hubble has done in the past. However, this leaves little room for future breakdowns.