NASA traces Hubble glitches

NASA engineers have traced two glitches that shut down the orbiting Hubble space telescope.

If all goes well, the telescope should resume some operations on Saturday and then more next week, NASA officials told reporters.

“Observations with the wide field camera will resume this weekend,” Art Whipple of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, told a telephone briefing.

The computer breakdown forced NASA to delay its final Hubble servicing mission, originally scheduled to take off last week, until February at the soonest. The space telescope, which orbits about 300 miles above Earth, has transformed the view of the Universe, providing pictures of stars being born, evidence of mysterious dark energy and peering back to the earliest galaxies.

The computer that failed helped transmit these images back to Earth, forcing NASA to use a back-up that had been sleeping since Hubble was launched in 1990.

“This is the first time we have turned it on in 18 years and we will have to see how it goes,” Whipple said.

One of the problems was caused by a timing error in a software test, while the other appears to have been electrical in nature, NASA said.

“Events of these kinds are not uncommon in electrical components that have been powered off for a time,” Whipple said, and added that further glitches might be expected.

NASA will decide in mid-November whether the original faulty system will be replaced during the next servicing mission. The hope is to keep the observatory operating for at least five more years, and enhance its instruments.

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