The Hubble Space Telescope has entered a protective safe state in what is now a disturbingly regular event. Mission team members have not yet identified the source of the latest problem.
That the problem began in the early hours of October 23, when error codes produced by Hubble’s scientific instruments pointed to “the loss of a specific synchronization message,” according to a NASA Press release. These messages allow the instruments to respond accurately to data requests and commands. Mission team members performed the required reset so that operations could resume the following morning.
But at 2:38 EDT on October 25, the same thing happened again, but this time the scientific instruments brought out a lot of loss of synchronization messages. Hubble automatically went into safe mode as a result, and it has been in this mode ever since. Science operations are currently on hold, but NASA teams insist that Hubble’s instruments are “sound” and that the space telescope will remain in safe condition for the duration of the study.
Launched in 1990, the large telescope offers spectacular views of the cosmos and priceless astronomical data.. Hubble, a joint mission of NASA and the European Space Agency, was to last only 15 years, but it just keeps ticking, despite the single mistake. Current indications are that Hubble will remain operational in the late 2020s and possibly even into the 2030s.
Mission specialists try to keep track of the current situation – an obvious synchronization problem –by analyzing spacecraft data and system diagrams. They are also working on developing new ways to collect data from Hubble, a process that is expected to take at least a week. There is no timetable for Hubble to return to its regular programming. We contacted NASA for more details, but no new information was provided.
This latest incident marks the third time that Hubble has gone into safe mode by 2021, and we can only hope that the spacecraft, like all previous times, will wake up from its slumber. The situation looked risky on June 13 this year when Hubble ind in safe condition due to a defective power control unit. It took NASA a whole month to bring Hubble back, which it finally succeeded by switching to backup hardware. Hubble too ind in safe mode last March due to a software bug, as well in 2008, 2018, and 2019.
Hubble is amazing, and we hope to see it back as soon as possible, but its successor, the Webb Space Telescope, is waiting in the background. The launch of the next generation space telescope is currently underway planned for 18 December 2021 at 7:20 EDT.
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