Computer Glitch Makes Hubble Go Dark

NASA is struggling to reboot the 'brain' of the telescope
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2021 9:12 AM CDT
NASA Is Struggling to Reboot Hubble's 'Brain'
In this 1999 photo, astronauts Steven L. Smith and John M. Grunsfeld service the Hubble telescope.   (NASA/JSC via AP, File)

The famed Hubble telescope is still kicking after more than three decades in space, but it's been dark for more than a week now because of a computer glitch. NASA has tried and failed to reboot the telescope's payload computer since it crashed on June 13, reports Live Science. As a result, the spacecraft is now in "safe mode" and not taking any pictures. The computer is essentially the Hubble's "brain," per Business Insider, because it controls all of the spacecraft's instruments. In a statement, NASA says the problem is probably a "decaying computer memory module," which might not be too surprising. As the AP notes, the Hubble launched in 1990 and relies on a 1980s-era system.

"Memory can degrade over time due to years of exposure to radiation in space," the Goddard Space Flight Center tells the Cosmic Companion. The Hubble, fortunately, has a backup computer that can take over if the crash proves impossible to fix, per Live Science. There is also the possibility of a service call by astronauts, though the last one took place in 2009 and no further missions had been planned. The Hubble has surpassed expectations during its long mission, though a far more advanced device—the James Webb Space Telescope—is scheduled to launch later in 2021. (More Hubble Space Telescope stories.)

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