Another NASA Telescope In Safe Mode: Chandra Goes To Sleep


After a gyroscope malfunction forced NASA to place the Hubble Space Telescope to safe mode, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory has also ceased operations.

Chandra Spacecraft Goes Into Safe Mode

On Wednesday, Oct. 10, the spacecraft entered safe mode, backing up its data and pointing its solar panels to the sun to get maximum sunlight. NASA still does not know why the spacecraft transitioned to safe mode. It is normal behavior for the spacecraft to enter safe mode when it is experiencing a hardware or software failure or glitch.
Only the essential instruments it needs to survive are currently working, but all of its scientific equipment are otherwise safe. An investigation is currently underway to figure out why the 19-year-old spacecraft suddenly transitioned to safe mode, although the space agency suspects that one of its gyroscopes might have experienced a malfunction.

The Chandra X-Ray Observatory was launched into space in 1999. Its mission is to detect X-ray emissions from across the universe that would not be detected by instruments on Earth.

Since launch, the spacecraft has provided a look at the remains of exploding stars and found black holes across the universe. Scientists also used its instruments to observe the area surrounding the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Chandra is one of the four "Great Observatories" of NASA alongside the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.

Hubble Space Telescope Malfunction

The Hubble Space Telescope, meanwhile, went into safe mode on Oct. 5 after one of the three gyroscopes currently in use failed. Gyroscopes are used to stabilize and point the telescope into a certain direction for long periods of time.

Although there are six gyroscopes onboard the spacecraft, only three of them are used. The remaining three act as reserves. Two other gyroscopes have failed in the past, leaving only one backup. However, even the last one was malfunctioning.

According to NASA, the second gyroscope is working and tracking the movements of the telescope, but it is reporting inaccurate rotation rates. Scientists at ground control will continue to try and fix the gyroscope. The Hubble Space Telescope will continue to be in safe mode until the space agency has figured out its next step of action.

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