It has been a few decades since we first started to explore beyond the confines of our own world, venturing into the unknown. It was technology like the Hubble Space Telescope which peered into the cosmos and revolutionized the world of astronomy, forever changing the way we view the vastness of the universe. So when the Hubble Space Telescope has been reported to be down for a few days, it becomes a matter of concern.
That’s right, the same instrument which has been peering into space for more than 30 years has been down ever since a problem developed on its degrading payload computer, which stopped working last Sunday. NASA said that flight controllers at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland failed to restart it, but maintained that the telescope itself and other scientific instruments are “in good health.”
“When the operations team attempted to switch to a backup memory module, however, the command to initiate the backup module failed to complete. Another attempt was conducted on both modules Thursday evening to obtain more diagnostic information while again trying to bring those memory modules online,” NASA said. However, the attempts were not successful.
A NASA Standard Spacecraft Computer-1 (NSSC-1) system built in the 1980s, the purpose of the payload computer is to control and coordinate the science instruments and monitor them for health and safety purposes. According to NASA, it is fully redundant as a second computer present in orbit can be switched over to if a problem arises. Both computers are able to access and use any of four independent memory modules, each of each contains 64K of Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) memory. The payload computer uses only one memory module operationally at a time, with the other three serving as backups.
The space agency said that it was working to resolve the issue, “The operations team will be running tests and collecting more information on the system to further isolate the problem. The science instruments will remain in a safe mode state until the issue is resolved,” NASA said.
Hubble is set to get a powerful successor this November, as the James Webb Space Telescope is set to reach the skies and orbit a million miles away from Earth.