Government Shutdown May Delay Hubble Telescope Repairs – Geek
Government Shutdown May Delay Hubble Telescope Repairs
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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope on Tuesday suspended operations of its Wide Field Camera 3, due to an unspecified hardware problem.
Hubble continues to perform science observations using three other active instruments while the camera anomaly is investigated.
Engineers, however, are unlikely to be able to fix the aging telescope until the ongoing government shutdown ends, whenever that may be.
“This is when everyone gets a reminder about two crucial aspects of space exploration,” Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, wrote on Twitter.
“[One,] complex systems like [the Hubble Space Telescope] only work due to a dedicated team of amazing experts,” he explained. “[Two,] all space systems have finite lifetimes and such issues are bound to happen from time to time.”
Wide Field Camera 3, installed in 2009, is equipped with redundant electronics that can be used to recover the instrument.
But not until mission operators return to work at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, where employees are on involuntary leave during the closure.
This malfunction follows another glitch in October, when one of the telescope’s three active gyroscopes failed, forcing HST into safe mode. Operations were returned to normal three weeks later, following the successful recovery of a backup device.
Hubble completed science observations the next day, using the Wide Field Camera 3 instrument to capture infrared wavelengths of a distant, star-forming galaxy.
These issues, however, are really showing the craft’s age.
Since the telescope’s launch into low Earth orbit in 1990, five Space Shuttle missions have repaired, upgraded, and replaced its systems, including all five main instruments.
Expected to last until sometime between 2030 and 2040, Hubble will be succeeded by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), currently scheduled for launch in March 2021.
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