Hubble is still offline, and NASA can't come up with a fix fast enough to get the space telescope working again.
According to a report by Space.com, the legendary Hubble Space Telescope is experiencing its worst technical issue in a decade, and NASA still hasn't found a way to fix it. It has been offline since June 13, when it abruptly stopped working.
Initially, engineers thought it was only a broken memory module, which makes sense given the age of Hubble--it's already 31 years old. But upon careful investigation, the folks at NASA knew this wasn't an ordinary hardware glitch, but much more. But exactly what caused the problem, they still don't know.
The last time Hubble was repaired was back in 2009, when a group of astronauts replaced two scientific instruments and repaired any wear-and-tear damage. The thing is, troubleshooting a problem in space is a lot trickier compared to doing it on the ground. It's not always possible to send a human repair team up to where Hubble is orbiting, so control teams on the ground have to rely on instruments to get details.
Despite the problem, though, there is still more than enough confidence that Hubble won't go into retirement so easily, writes the Scientific American. That's because, according to the most recent tests, ground control has determined that memory errors are only a symptom and that there's another hardware issue causing the glitch.
So far, NASA has failed to fix Hubble three times, proving that the saying "third time's a charm" doesn't always pan out.
Hubble Space Telescope On The Way to Retirement?
The Hubble Space Telescope is 31 years old. For humans, that's still pretty young. But tech-wise, Hubble might as well be a centenarian.
When it launched on April 24, 1990, NASA's original plan for the telescope was to keep it technologically updated. And it made sense at the time, given that reusable spacecraft like the Space Shuttle existed. It's as easy as sending up a new crew every few years to upgrade the telescope, right?
Well, that obviously didn't pan out. NASA retired the Space Shuttle program in 2011, which forced astronauts to get to space aboard Russian rockets. As a result, repairing and/or upgrading Hubble became far more difficult and costly. It's become so hard for ground control to try and fix it, that one former astronaut now says Hubble is irreparable. Of course, NASA denies this and keeps trying to fix the telescope.
A Worthy Replacement
No other telescope can hope to match the legacy that Hubble will be leaving behind once it retires. But in the event that it does, it has a worthy replacement in the James Webb telescope. Despite already experiencing multiple launch delays, Webb is still well on the way before the year ends if things turn out well.
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Written by RJ Pierce