The Hubble Space Telescope

Malfunction Shuts Down Hubble Telescope

October 01, 2008 10:20 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The Hubble Space Telescope has gone out of commission just weeks before a final service mission was supposed to visit the instrument on Oct. 14.

Hubble Shut Down

A “significant malfunction” interrupted the storage and transmission of scientific data from the telescope to the Earth on Saturday, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

An investigation into the impact of the the malfunction, which involved a part called Control Unit/Science Data Formatter—Side A, is not yet complete.

While the breakdown was unfortunate, the telescope's operators say it is a relief that the breakdown occured when it did, instead of after the scheduled service mission had taken place.

“Think if it had happened two weeks after the service mission ... We could have lost the mission in six, twelve, eighteen months,” said Ed Weiler, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, to reporters Monday. “If this had to happen, it couldn't have happened at a better time. We're very lucky.”

The service mission is now to take place in February, and will include a replacement system for Hubble. In the meantime, the instrument will be reconfigured to work using a part similar to Side A, called Side B, later this week.

Background: NASA Readies Endeavor as Emergency Rescue Shuttle for Atlantis

The space shuttle Endeavor was moved earlier this month to a launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center, where it sat next to the shuttle Atlantis. It was the first time in seven years that two space shuttles were at their launch pads simultaneously, according to Discover Magazine.

Atlantis was slated to liftoff in October, when seven astronauts were supposed to begin a mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. Although the mission has now been delayed, the 18-year-old telescope is still in need of its final upgrade: new batteries, gyroscopes and repair kits, according to Reuters.
Endeavor will be on stand-by in the event that something goes wrong in the Atlantis’s precarious mission. During the Atlantis mission, the astronauts will be close enough to the International Space Station to seek safety if anything goes wrong with the ship, according to the Associated Press. In such a case, four astronauts on Endeavor could come to the rescue.

Reference: Astronomy


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