NASA Says It's Trying to Bring the Hubble Back Online

Major Tom?

NASA is working on bringing the Hubble Space Telescope back online, but given its recent setbacks, the agency's insistence that it's "in good health" may be wishful thinking.

In an update, NASA said that it's still working to bring the aging telescope back to life after a series of issues that led it to automatically enter safe mode (read: shut down) three times over the course of a few weeks, with the final one lasting until now.

Starting on November 19, the agency began having issues problems with the gyroscopes or "gyros" — not to be confused with the delicious Greek meat — which helps orient the telescope in whatever direction it needs to point. Between that date and November 29, the gyro issues led to automatic power-downs thrice. That last safe mode, it seems, has remained in effect until now.

Aging Instruments

Installed back in 2009 during the fifth and final Space Shuttle servicing mission that saw NASA astronauts replacing and fixing Hubble instruments IRL, the remaining three of the six gyros aboard the telescope have clearly seen better days. Indeed, with its update to its previous statement about the science operations shutoff, the agency seems to be admitting as much.

"Based on the performance observed during the tests, the team has decided to operate the gyros in a higher-precision mode during science observations," the statement reads. "Hubble’s instruments and the observatory itself remain stable and in good health."

These latest Hubble setbacks have resurrected talks of a private servicing mission for the 33-year-old telescope that was supposed to be decommissioned nearly two decades ago.

At the end of 2022, NASA and SpaceX announced that they were jointly looking into whether it would be feasible to send up a private mission "at no cost to the government" to fix various issues on the telescope. That study has apparently been completed, but nobody knows what the findings were just yet.

In the meantime, NASA will hopefully be able to bring Hubble back online itself because, let's face it, we're not ready to say goodbye.

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