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NASA is taking drastic measures

NASA is taking drastic measures

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The Hubble Telescope is aging in space and suffering from problems. NASA is taking extreme measures to extend its life.

Email Washington, DC – Since 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has revolutionized humanity's view of the universe. With its colorful, stunning images from the farthest corners of space, it has given people new perspectives and made pioneering discoveries possible. But time has left its mark. It has been more than 15 years since the last repair job, and since then maintenance has only been possible remotely. This means that defective components can no longer be replaced.

Hubble has been experiencing problems with its gyroscopes, which are responsible for aligning the telescope, for some time. There are six of these devices on board, but only three of them were still active until recently. Over the past six months, one of the gyroscopes has repeatedly caused problems and put Hubble in safety mode. Therefore, NASA has now made a radical decision.

The Hubble Space Telescope will only operate with one gyroscope

From now on, Hubble will only be operated by one gyroscope. The second device that is still working will act as a “backup”. NASA confirms one noticeThe telescope can perform scientific observations using only one gyroscope. “NASA developed this plan more than 20 years ago to extend Hubble’s life and enable successful science to be conducted using fewer than three operational gyroscopes,” the US space agency said.

Using the Hubble Telescope, researchers discovered a planet that contains water in its atmosphere.
Using the Hubble Telescope, researchers discovered a planet that contains water in its atmosphere. © Alliance Image / German Press Agency

But what does the decision to use only the gyroscope mean for the space telescope? “Personally, I don't see this as a major limitation on scientific capabilities,” Mark Clampin, director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters, said during a Hubble press conference. According to NASA, there will be some “small limitations expected” on scientific observations in the future. The telescope will take longer to move in direction and acquire the target.

The Hubble Space Telescope will have minor limitations in the future

In addition, Hubble will be less flexible about when and where it can look. The telescope will also not be able to track moving objects closer to Mars, although that has rarely been the telescope's goal so far. The Ars Technica portal quoted Clampin as saying: “We do not believe that Hubble is in its final stages.”

Hubble's most important discoveries.

The Hubble Space Telescope has been involved in many scientific discoveries since its launch nearly 35 years ago. Among other things, this includes confirming the existence of supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies, but also realizing that the universe is constantly expanding. While Hubble operates primarily in the optical and ultraviolet range, its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, looks at space in the near-infrared range.

The Hubble Telescope will never again be repaired by astronauts on site

Between 2005 and the last repair mission in 2009, there were only two gyros in operation. A team of six astronauts then installed six new gyroscopes on the Hubble Space Telescope during a spacewalk. But this option no longer exists today: with the end of the “space shuttles” in the summer of 2011, the possibility of accessing “Hubble” in its Earth orbit and serving it on site also ended. Although billionaire Jared Isaacman offered NASA a repair mission with his Polaris Dawn mission, NASA apparently declined.

NASA astronauts repaired the Hubble Space Telescope for the last time in 2009. (File photo)
NASA astronauts repaired the Hubble Space Telescope for the last time in 2009. (File photo) © Imago/NASA

According to NASA, the Hubble Space Telescope is scheduled to fly by the mid-2030s

Since May 24, the space telescope has been in safety mode, where it will remain until the work is completed. Hubble's scientific observations are scheduled to continue around mid-June. NASA expects Hubble to enter the Earth's atmosphere and collide in the mid-2030s. But until then, the old space telescope should be able to make “new cosmic discoveries for many years to come.” (unpaid bill)