NASA’s giant Hubble telescope was in safe mode for two hours on Friday, two days after an outage brought its successful science mission to a halt.
The observatory’s cameras, computer and communication systems went down Wednesday night. The cause of the failure, which occurred only a week after an outage, has not been determined.
The space agency said it expected it would be at least a day before the telescope was back in full operation.
Hubble officials said Friday that engineers were not able to repair the bulk of the problem until after the spacecraft blasted off in April 1990 to study the universe.
Since then, more than 5 billion square miles (13 billion square kilometers) have been imaged by Hubble and telescopes have recorded more than 10 billion galaxies. The one-eyed, gold-plated observatory is capable of observing objects as distant as the universe itself.
“Hubble is in safe mode with all communications and science observing systems offline. While normal science observations have ceased, Hubble’s instruments are still performing important maintenance and repair tasks, preventing further degradation of the instruments,” NASA said in a statement.
Hubble’s back-up tracking and telemetry system was never affected, NASA said.
“Hubble is continuing to operate in safe mode while NASA and the mission team continue their examination of the technical issues and recovery plan,” the statement said.
The telescope was last in safe mode on Feb. 17, 2014. In the meantime, a servicing mission will be mounted to the telescope this summer to repair the last four major instruments on Hubble. The mission should be completed in June 2021.
The Hubble team still believes that the last repair mission will “complete the primary mission and enable the vast majority of Hubble observations to continue,” NASA’s statement said.
NASA’s space shuttle program is ending this year with the end of Endeavour’s cargo delivery mission to the International Space Station. The mission aboard Endeavour is the last to be led by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly. His identical twin brother, Mark Kelly, is a member of the final crew.
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