Hubble Telescope Spends Week In “Safe Mode” Following Mysterious Computer Error


NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope travels the cosmos in safe mode after its payload computer suddenly crashed on June 13, according to a NASA statement.

The computer is responsible for coordinating and controlling all of the scientific instruments aboard the telescope – meaning that until ground technicians can get it back up and running, the world’s most famous telescope is at hand. about as useful as the dead iPod in your junk. drawer.

The good news is that NASA’s 31-year-old satellite has a spare computer on board, which technicians can turn on if the crashed computer proves too difficult to back up. The bad news is that after a week of troubleshooting, NASA techs still didn’t figure out exactly what was wrong with the payload computer.

Related: 26 cosmic photos of the ultra-deep field of the Hubble Space Telescope

“Early indications indicated that a computer memory module was degrading as the source of the computer shutdown,” NASA officials wrote in the statement. “When the operations team attempted to switch to a backup memory module, the backup module initialize command was unsuccessful.”

A second attempt to bring the two memory modules online on June 17 also failed, NASA added. The satellite carries a total of four memory modules, which either of the two payload computers can access at any time under normal conditions.

In a pinch, NASA can transport astronauts to Hubble for manual service work, as it did in 2009 during mission STS-125. During this mission, the astronauts installed two new scientific instruments (a wide-field camera and a measuring instrument ultraviolet light) on the telescope and replaced old pieces of hardware. This 2009 foray was the fifth and final shuttle mission to Hubble. With NASA’s all-new James Webb Space Telescope expected to launch later this year, there are no plans to manually repair the Hubble.

A glitchy software update sent the Hubble to safe mode in March 2021, but was easily fixed, Previously reported live science. While the Hubble was built in the late 1980s, NASA emphasized that the telescope’s scientific instruments are still in good working order and are ready to resume their cosmos-mapping mission as soon as the payload computer is loaded. can be put back online.

As of now, there is “no definitive timeline” for bringing the computer back online, NASA spokesman said – but technicians have “several options at their disposal” to solve the problem. Hopefully this problem with Hubble ends on double.

Originally posted on Live Science.


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