Hubble trouble: Deep space telescope in ‘safe mode’ after mechanical fail

But now NASA has been forced to place one of it's prize assets into "safe mode" due to the malfunction of a gyroscope used to balance and navigate the $2.5 billion telescope. Most recently, the telescope helped scientists firm up their evidence for the first detection of a moon circling an exoplanet. Two of the backup gyros had already failed since 2009.

NASA's preference, the post said, is to return Hubble to service in its standard three-gyro configuration.

Scientists are now performing analyses and tests to determine what options are available to recover the gyro to operational performance.

This photo of the Hubble Space Telescope was taken on the 5th servicing mission to the observatory in 2009.

As Space.com reports, the Hubble requires a trio of gyroscopes to operate at its optimal capacity. Still, the telescope can function with just two gyros, and it could even continue observing the universe with just one.

"There isn't much difference between 2- [gyros] and 1, and it buys lots of extra observing time", tweeted Rachel Osten, the deputy mission head for Hubble at the Space Telescope Science Institute, late October 7.

Hubble is now down to two working gyros and needs at least 3 for optimal operations. Engineers were forced to suspend the telescopes' scientific activities over the weekend after one of its gyroscope's failed.

The telescope is now operating on two of these enhanced gyros. "Which the Astro community wants desperately". The current problem, though, is a reminder that, with the retirement of the shuttle, NASA now lacks a means to fix or upgrade Hubble.

In a series of tweets, Rachel Osten, deputy mission head for the Hubble Space Telescope at the Space Telescope Science Institute, confirmed the problem.

The telescope is known to be nearing the end of its active life, with the James Webb Space Telescope - now scheduled for launch no earlier than 2021 - slated to be its successor.

NASA was quick to offer reassurance: "Hubble's instruments still are fully operational and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come", public affairs officer Felicia Chou wrote in an update on the NASA website.

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