Failing gyroscopes are not uncommon, so Hubble was equipped with six new ones (which included backups in case of failure) on a 2009 mission to service the telescope, which was launched all the way back in 1990. These six gyroscopes were replaced during a 2009 fix mission to the telescope. "NASA is working to resume science operations", NASA said in an official statement said.
The news came as a shock to the fans of the venerable space telescope, which has sent down jaw-dropping images and data to address cosmic conundrums ranging from planetary origins to the age of the universe. Right now, only two of the three gyros are working properly: "Upon powering on the third enhanced gyro that had been held in reserve, analysis of spacecraft telemetry indicated that it was not performing at the level required for operations".
The telescope needs three working gyroscopes to 'ensure optimal efficiency'.
"The plan has always been to drop to 1-gryo mode when two remain", Osten said in a Twitter exchange. Thus, each problem brings the telescope, one of the most famous and productive observatories in the history of astronomy, one step closer to its eventual end.
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is one of the most reliable pieces of hardware ever launched into Earth orbit.
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The Hubble Space Telescope has been sidelined by a serious pointing problem.
The Space Telescope Science Institute's deputy mission head, Dr. Rachel Osten, said the first move "is to try to bring back the last gyro, which had been off, and is being problematic". "Which the Astro community wants desperately", Osten tweeted.
While NASA says that reduced-gyro mode would have "relatively limited impact on the overall scientific capabilities", some astronomers are concerned that the reduced-gyro mode could adversely affect some types of observations, such as of solar system objects, that require the precision of three-gyro operations.
Astronomers have been hoping that Hubble will continue to operate long enough to cover the transition to NASA's next-generation James Webb Space Telescope. "We'll work through the issues and be back", she wrote.