June 17, 2024

How does NASA want to give the Hubble Space Telescope more time?

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The Hubble Space Telescope has made groundbreaking discoveries in the universe, but it is outdated. NASA’s plan is to keep it alive.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Hubble Space Telescope has changed the way humanity looks at the universe. Stunning, colorful images of distant regions of space – Hubble has made them visible since its launch in 1990. There are also ground-breaking discoveries in the universe. But the telescope is aging — it’s been more than 15 years since the last repair mission, and since then the space telescope can only be serviced remotely. This means, among other things, that defective parts can no longer be replaced.

The Hubble Space Telescope has problems with its gyroscopes

For many years, Hubble has been struggling with its gyroscopes, which are responsible for determining which direction to aim the telescope. Six gyroscopes were installed on the space telescope, three of which are still active. But one of the gyroscopes has repeatedly caused problems over the past six months and put the Hubble Telescope into safety mode. That’s why NASA is now taking strict action.

This big tin barrel in Earth's orbit is a telescope
This big tin barrel in Earth’s orbit is the Hubble Space Telescope. He creates the amazing shots that everyone knows about. © Image Alliance/DPA/NASA

From now on, Hubble will only operate with a gyroscope. The second tool, which still works, was designed to act as a “backup.” Like NASA in one notice He emphasizes that the space telescope can also perform scientific observations using just 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.

Hubble was repaired at the site for the last time in 2009

From 2005 until the last repair mission in 2009, there were only two gyros in use until a team of six astronauts installed six new gyros during a Hubble spacewalk. But this possibility no longer exists today: with the end of the Space Shuttle mission in the summer of 2011, the possibility of accessing Hubble in its Earth orbit and serving it on site also ended. Billionaire Jared Isaacman of NASA I offered to perform a repair mission through the Polaris Dawn missionBut NASA seems to have decided not to do so.

Hubble’s most important discoveries.

In the nearly 35 years since it was launched into space, the Hubble Space Telescope has made many scientific discoveries. Among the most important of them is the confirmation of the existence of supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies, and the discovery that the universe is expanding. Hubble works primarily in the ultraviolet and optical ranges. Behind it, the James Webb Space Telescope, looks into space in the near-infrared range.

But what does the decision to use only one gyroscope mean for a 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, explained at a press conference held by NASA about Hubble. As NASA stated, there will be some “small limitations expected” on scientific observations in the future. The telescope will take longer to move in one direction and acquire the target.

The Hubble Space Telescope will have some “minor limitations” in the future

In addition, Hubble will have less flexibility regarding where it can look and at what time. The telescope will also not be able to track moving objects closer to Mars, and until now, that has rarely been the telescope’s goal. “We don’t think Hubble is on its last legs.” Quoted from the Ars Technica portal Clampin.

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

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

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