Monday, September 29, 2008

Hubble trouble

In the last hour or so, news has come out that the Hubble Telescope stopped sending data, forcing NASA to delay its upcoming repair mission for several months.

Hubble is not dead. What died was the main antenna for sending science data back to Earth. There is a spare, and NASA is trying to get it working. And there are other antennas used for the housekeeping tasks that keep Hubble pointed and the batteries charged and so on. However, the spare is not yet up and running (this could take a few days or weeks), and there are no other spares, so NASA needs to decide if it wants to repair the dead antenna. That means getting parts and procedures ready, when none exist. And it means more training for the astronauts, who rehearse the repairs over and over again. There's just no way to be ready for that in two weeks. So the launch is off until early 2009.

My initial feeling is that we were quite lucky. If the antenna can be repaired, then we'll have both the main antenna and the spare working after the servicing mission. But if the antenna hadn't failed until, say, November, then we'd be down to just the spare for the remainder of Hubble's life. So the timing of the failure was pretty good.

In all likelihood, Hubble will be working again (using its spare science antenna) soon, and it will be virtually brand new after the repair mission next year. It's worth the wait!

Now, if I could just be as positive about my bank...

No comments:

Post a Comment