Hubble Telescope in 'Safe Mode' After Gyro Failure

"Hubble entered safe mode after one of the 3 gyroscopes actively being used to point and steady the telescope failed", NASA said in a statement.

The agency, though, said it didn't expect Hubble to cease operations any time soon, as its instruments and other key components are working normally.

Most of the giant Hubble Space Telescope can be seen as it is suspended in space by Discovery's Remote Manipulator System (RMS) following the deployment of part of its solar panels and antennae. The failure over the weekend took the telescope down to just two.

"The remaining three gyros available for use are technically enhanced and therefore expected to have significantly longer operational lives", NASA said today.

Though three gyroscopes are ideal, the telescope can be used on only one. Staff at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Telescope Science Institute are now performing analyses and tests to determine what options are available to recover the gyro to operational performance.

'Right now HST is in safe mode while we figure out what to do.

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".

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The Hubble, behind iconic images such as Pillars of Creation (below) has watched the skies for 28 years, having launched in 1990. All six were replaced in 2009 but since then three of them have become unusable.

The troublesome gyroscope leaves two functioning ones, Space.com reports.

Olsten confirmed the problem would not mean the end of Hubble.

Osten also noted that the team has had a "very stressful weekend" and that the Hubble is now "in safe mode while we figure out what to do". The newly failed gyro is the last of that old design, and it lasted about six months longer than expected.

"We'll work through the issues and be back", she promised.

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

The instrument, named after astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble, has been celebrated for its involvement in tracking asteroids, analysing the Kuiper Belt and documenting the nebula of dying stars.

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