A Computer Glitch Stopped Hubble’s Operations. So Far, Restart Efforts have Failed

On June 13, the Hubble Space Telescope’s payload computer stopped working on the great instrument. So far without success – there have been several attempts to re-launch and astronomers are drawing themselves to the possibility that this is the end of the telescope that will change our view of the universe. NASA has released only a limited amount of information about the Hubble Trouble, and it has been closely linked to the possibility of it being reopened and re-operated. On June 16, the NASA website announced; “After analyzing the data, the Hubble Operations team is investigating whether a reducing memory module has stopped the computer. The team is preparing to switch to one of several backup modules.”

Two days later, an update was published on June 18; “When the operation team tried to switch to the backup memory module, however, it failed to finish the command to start the backup module. Attempts were made again on Thursday evening to obtain more diagnostic information on both modules and to bring those memory modules online. However, this attempt was not successful.” The Hubble Twitter account is no longer enlightened. In addition to tweeting a link to the media release, its latest update was a Father’s Day message about the telescope’s considered parent Limon Spitzer.

Hubble has four mission fixed problems and upgraded parts of instruments. However, the last servicing mission took place in 2009 – even after a publicity stunt. By the time JWST was seen as a replacement for Hubble, despite its long-lasting wavelength, it was expected to take effect soon, but Hubble’s importance waned. 

Twelve years later, optimism about Hubble’s ability to leave the void after JWST has not yet been launched is much more muted, but there are no plans to extend Hubble’s life. While some hope that Hubble may have another ten or twenty years to do so, if a major failure occurs, it is less likely to resurface. Hubble has survived a bit of fear before, a gyroscope failure before recently returning to full power.