June 23, 2024

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Collapse forces Hubble Space Telescope to retire

Collapse forces Hubble Space Telescope to retire

The Hubble Space Telescope, which has revolutionized astronomy with its discoveries since 1990, will retire with a smaller observing program, NASA officials said Tuesday.

One of the three gyroscopes that control the orientation of the telescope’s points has become unstable in recent months, leading to intermittent episodes of “safe mode,” most recently on May 24.

“After completing a series of tests and carefully considering our options, we have made the decision to transition Hubble from operational use to only one of the three remaining gyroscopes,” said Mark Clampin, director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division.

The other gyro will be kept in reserve for possible future use.

The shift, which is scheduled to be completed by mid-June, will reduce Hubble’s efficiency at making scientific observations by 12%, from 85 orbits per week to 74, according to Patrick Cross, the telescope’s mission project manager.

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Cross added that over the course of a year, it will still be able to observe the night sky, but it will not be able to track objects closer to Mars, although such targets are rare.

NASA estimates there is more than a 70% chance of operating in this configuration through 2035. At the end of the telescope’s functional life, the space agency plans to safely deorbit it or dispose of the instrument.

The telescope, named after astronomer Edwin Hubble, was launched in 1990 and operates at an altitude of about 515 kilometers above Earth.

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Between 1993 and 2009, astronauts visited Hubble five times on repair missions.

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