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Space Science

Hubble Telescope's Main Camera Shuts Down 131

anthemaniac writes " is reporting that the aging observatory's primary camera, the ACS, has been in safe mode since the weekend. From the article: 'An initial investigation indicates the camera has stopped functioning, and the input power feed to its Side B electronics package has failed.' The camera has shut down before and been revived."
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Hubble Telescope's Main Camera Shuts Down

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  • by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Monday January 29, 2007 @06:55PM (#17806264) Homepage is reporting that the aging observatory's primary camera, the ACS, has been in safe mode since the weekend.

    No wonder they can't contact it. Safe Mode doesn't support networking by default.
  • Wasn't the shuttle scheduled to do one-last service call on Hubble? This is despite NASA's foot-dragging
    and originally deciding NOT to service it and just retire it.

    Gee, if it's fried, then they can't do a normal maintenance and can save $100M on a launch....
    And if it's just been told to "roll over and play dead"......
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Mooga ( 789849 )
      The Hubble is getting old.
      I'm pretty sure they were going to stop servicing it.
      The question is: Will they come up with a replacement or try to fix the Hubble again?
      And would be cost effective to repair it again or has it's time finally come?
      • by btc9183 ( 570671 )
        I thought they already had a service launch scheduled for sometime soon...

        From []: "Hubble to be Serviced Again Administrator Michael Griffin's decision on October 31, 2006 to fly servicing mission SM4 in mid- to late-2008 will bring unique capabilities to Hubble in the form of two new science instruments, Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and Wide Field Camera 3. In addition, new gyros and batteries will extend Hubble's life through 2013."

        Of course by then it may be too late..

      • I'd like to see them coming up with bazillion nanorobots. Robots that could fix eachother and the hubble itself. We know that to a level it's possible, tiny midgets running around on the hubble fixing it where it breaks and fixing eachother. Ofcourse they'd need a bunch of supplies too (hear that nasa dudes ? don't forget to give them a bunch of resistors and stuff). Would be cool, would be economic from some point.

        Ofcourse there's a chance of them gaining somekind of ai and destroying the world as
    • by iamlucky13 ( 795185 ) on Monday January 29, 2007 @08:51PM (#17807754)
      The Advanced Camera for Surveys wasn't installed until the third servicing mission in 2002. It's been problematic since then. If it can be installed on a spacewalk, it can be replaced on a spacewalk.

      Also, the Hubble servicing mission has been approved. Barring some act of God or Congress, Atlantis will conduct this mission on STS-125 in May of 2008. The ACS was not on the itinerary for service, but it might still be possible to add it to the agenda or push back the mission date if need be. On the other hand, it might be possible to work around whatever problem caused the latest shutdown, the third according to Wikipedia.

      I should point out the foot dragging was largely spurred on by calls for the retirement of the shuttle as soon as possible (even immediately) and some general hysteria following the Columbia incident (as opposed to the rational re-examination that also took place). There is also the issue of the cost, which is in the range of hundreds of millions and had not been provided for, and a difference of philosophy between O'Keefe (administrator until 2005) and Griffin (current admin). Mission development is fully provided for in 2007, and should be in the 2008 budget, too.

      If Hubble was going to roll over and play dead, it should've done so back in mid-2005, before more money had been spent on the servicing mission.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 29, 2007 @07:04PM (#17806416)
    and choose "Last known good configuration."
  • this was obvious (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rucs_hack ( 784150 ) on Monday January 29, 2007 @07:06PM (#17806434)
    Since they have already said that repair missions to the hubble scope are off the agenda, sooner or later its going to die. There are replacements on the way anyhow.

    Personally I think they should boost it into higher orbit so it stays safe for future space archeologists. The same bods who will eventually be interested in retreiving the Viking missions, and who knows, if we get fast enough ships, the voyagers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cbcanb ( 237883 )
      There's one more Hubble repair mission to come (planned for Atlantis's final flight).

      And despite future spacecraft like JWST, none of the planned replacements will cover the UV range.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by rucs_hack ( 784150 )
        true, but there's not much will for that mission, one has already been cancelled, and I doubt this one will go ahead either
        • true, but there's not much will for that mission, one has already been cancelled, and I doubt this one will go ahead either

          Yup, the Bush administration doesn't see much use in science and NASA has been hurting badly since, then again, the Bush administration isn't the only issue, given that ever since the last shuttle accident no one is willing to risk anything in the name of progress. There are certainly other space agencies around the planet that could work together to make a worthy successor to the Hubll
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Shag ( 3737 )

            I would be curious to know whether some of the new Earth based observatories give Hubble a run for its money?

            New? Keep in mind that the top Earth based observatory, Keck, is 10-15 years old too. ;)

            Oh, and with technology like adaptive optics, AO lasers and interferometry... yes, Keck (and others) can "give Hubble a run for its money" in some regards. Not across the board, though - no real UV capability, for example. Even up at Keck, there's still enough atmosphere over my head to ruin things.


      • by Shag ( 3737 )

        despite future spacecraft like JWST, none of the planned replacements will cover the UV range.

        ... and those are all future. JWST won't even launch until at least what, 2011? And it only does IR. TPF is even further away.

        • by bware ( 148533 )
          TPF-I has been effectively cancelled ("deferred"), in no small part due to its money being reallocated to a Hubble servicing mission and the other manned space flight programs.
    • Personally I think they should boost it into higher orbit so it stays safe for future space archeologists.
      Spend hundreds of millions of dollars so that some grad student in the future can get funding for a space ride.
  • Oblig. (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    In Soviet Russia... they don't have cameras.
  • Assuming the space shuttle is retired after 2010, which seriously looks unlikely, how would they keep it alive? Soyuz and Shenzou are the only vehicles with air locks.

    It looks like the space shuttle is going to be around long after 2010 and Hubble repairs may continue indefinitely. The appropriations for replacing the shuttle were finally canceled and there's too much voter pressure to fund low Earth orbit science.

    • by Gary W. Longsine ( 124661 ) on Monday January 29, 2007 @09:15PM (#17808020) Homepage Journal
      The parent is not informative, it is wrong, or at least out of date.

      The Space Shuttle will be retired upon completion of the ISS. NASA will be taking steps over the coming years which would prevent almost any extension of the currently planned flight schedule, like reconfiguring launch pads to support the future vehicles, retiring shuttle craft as they complete their scheduled missions, caniballizing said vehicles for parts, and refraining from ordering parts like external tanks and solid rocket boosters which would be required to extend the schedule by even one flight.

      The shuttle will cease operations regardless of the status of replacement vehicles. Although many planned technology programs intended to help replace the shuttle with a more reliable and cost effective system were cancelled over the years, NASA is currently pursuing a manned vehicle program, Orion [] which has not been cancelled.
      • by rbanffy ( 584143 )
        I have some faith.

        NASA has big cargo capacity in the ARES V heavy-lifter and a much smaller manned craft in the ARES I. There is not much for returning orbiting cargo, something the shuttle could do, but I suspect it is cheaper to strap a heat shield and parachutes on anything that need to go down in one piece.

        ESA was also planning a cargo vehicle to replace the Progress ships.

        Using the shuttle for both types of mission, crew and cargo, is terribly ineffective. It should have stopped long ago.

        Yet, NASA stil
      • I heard an update from a Lookheed Martin engineer last week.
        Orion is on schedule, a bit overweight within design tolerances.
        This engineer will be doing a field test of the emergency escape system in 2008.
    • This should be modded down as you don't have any clue what you are talking about. STS will NOT be around after 2010. First there is the funding issue, then there is the parts issue...they don't make STS parts anymore! Specifically, the STS main engines can no longer be rebuilt and/or upgraded, the program to do that was cancelled several years ago. Rocket Engines don't last forever. The engines must be rebuilt every 5 or so launches or they risk losing 1 or more of them during a launch. If any systems break
      • by khallow ( 566160 )
        By "Shuttle replacement" do you mean the Ares I? That should be active by 2015 or so, if NASA can keep the mometum for the program going.
  • by Raynor ( 925006 ) on Monday January 29, 2007 @07:45PM (#17806878) Journal
    RTFA: It was restored from safemode on Sunday -.-

    They are hoping to switch it back over to the primary power supply and get limited usage until the shuttle gets there.
  • It's Cooked (Score:5, Informative)

    by floateyedumpi ( 187299 ) on Monday January 29, 2007 @07:53PM (#17806988)
    It shorted, and burned enough plastic or wiring to trip the overpressure sensor (do wire shorts smell in space?). See this message from the Space Telescope Science Institute []. Side A electronics are available which might be able to run a portion of the instrument. This has been expected since the first failure last summer, and "contingency" proposals are available to keep the observatory running using its other instruments (ACS has recently been the most used).
    • do wire shorts smell in space?

      I don't think it matters where they are if they don't have a nose.

      I'm so sorry for that.
    • do wire shorts smell in space?
      The smell that is normally associated with shorts is ozone, which would not be produced without some oxygen around.
      • The smell of ozone is more associated with high voltage corona and arcing than with a short circuit.

        Given enough available energy, a short circuit will heat wires enough to melt/burn insulation, or even vaporize the metal conductor itself. The typical smell associated with letting the magic smoke out of something isn't ozone, but burning plastic and phenolic insulation.
  • We have a telescope in orbit that's servicable. It seems to me that the big, expensive part of this marvel would be the large optical reflector. Unless someone could point out a reason otherwise, would it not make sense to just keep making camera upgrades to put on the end of this thing? Yes, I realize that I may be oversimplying this procedure, but if it's not feasible to service it in the near future, is there something wrong with tucking it away in a safe orbit until it would become feasible...or clea

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      A little budget math:

      Total HST cost: $6 billion []

      Yearly HST operations budget: $337 million []

      Single servicing mission in 2008: $900 million []

      I like Hubble a lot, but other missions [] which don't require (or allow) Shuttle service and cost on the order of $0.3-0.8 billion seem to me far more cost effective. The mirror is a tiny fraction of the cumulative operations costs.

    • by PhxBlue ( 562201 )
      Optics are the valuable part, but fuel is the trickiest part. If they can refuel HST, then in theory they could keep it up there forever. The problem is, as another reply mentioned, cost effectiveness--we have optical telescope arrays on the ground now that give us better images than Hubble's main camera.
      • by Detritus ( 11846 )
        Refuel what? HST does not have any rocket motors.
        • by PhxBlue ( 562201 )
          No rocket motors for attitude control, I saw upon further research. But none for stationkeeping, either? Every time the satellite moves a handful of meters outside its proper orbital station, someone has to up there and fix it? That has to suck.
          • No rocket motors for attitude control, I saw upon further research. But none for stationkeeping, either? Every time the satellite moves a handful of meters outside its proper orbital station, someone has to up there and fix it? That has to suck.
            The altitude isn't that important, and the attitude is controlled by those gyros that keep failing.
    • Yeah let's sell it to a bunch of geeks. All they'll do is turn it around and aim it at the nearest nude beach.
  • How is Globeco Space Dynamics a wholly owned subsidiary of Pepsico-Halliburton-Virgin Atlantic-ELF Aquitane going to worry about some damn space telescope for a bunch of scientists who don't have any money? Are you guys high? Seriously
  • As long as the photos don't come back at 640x480 in 8-bit color with a "safe mode" watermark in each corner...
  • Main camera turn on! Sorry. :P I hope it is fixable. Hubble is pretty cool.
  • Safe mode. Stopped functioning. Needs to be rebooted to make it work. Anyone for a game of word association?
  • by Kelson ( 129150 ) * on Monday January 29, 2007 @08:52PM (#17807776) Homepage Journal


    The ACS anomaly comes just two months before the instrument's projected five-year warranty expired, Hubble managers said. Spacewalking astronauts installed the camera on March 7, 2002 during NASA's STS-109 mission aboard the Columbia orbiter.

    In all seriousness, though, it's worth noting that this camera is comparatively new (installed 12 years after launch) and that it's failed more or less on schedule. Too bad NASA doesn't plan on sending a mission until next year. Also worth noting is that it's not the only instrument on the telescope... though it is the one that takes the purty pictures that garner mainstream attention.

    • by SQLGuru ( 980662 )
      Another case of a botched NASA program???

      Instead of writing this code:
      if (today() >= warrantyEnd + 1 month) { //break product

      They must of switched signs: //NASA code
      if (today() >= warrantyEnd - 1 month) { //break product


      (joke stolen shamelessly from a cohort)
  • None of the up coming space telescopes, nor anything on the ground can do what this machine can do. The new projects look for different things and the ground based systems can't look at a single point in space for a long duration image set. Check out this video, it blew me away:
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Juliemac ( 892781 ) Not included in the previous post
    • by Shag ( 3737 ) on Monday January 29, 2007 @11:59PM (#17809498)

      ground based systems can't look at a single point in space for a long duration image set

      Neither can Hubble. The Hubble Deep Field was pieced together from 10 nights of images. The newer Hubble Ultra Deep Field, from 11 nights.

      Pretty much any half-decent-looking astronomical image you see is a combination of multiple exposures. I'm one of the operators of the 2.2-meter (that's slightly smaller than Hubble) telescope on Mauna Kea, and have been teaching myself the process of getting and combining images in different filters/wavelengths. For example, I made this shot of M76 [] from about a dozen exposures. (Using, incidentally, the same instrument that was used to discover the Kuiper Belt back in 1992.)

      Just a data point.

  • by pq ( 42856 ) <rfc2324&yahoo,com> on Monday January 29, 2007 @10:36PM (#17808802) Homepage
    For other astronomers who might get their news from slashdot before other sources:

    HST entered inertial safe mode on Saturday January 27. Preliminary indications are that this event was associated with an ACS anomaly. GSFC and STScI engineers and scientists are still investigating the situation, but it appears unlikely that ACS CCD observations (both WFC and HRC) will be available in Cycle 16. Current indications are that ACS/SBC can be restored using operational workarounds, so observers should assume that the ACS/SBC configuration will be available in Cycle 16.

    The formal Cycle 16 deadline was 8 pm EST on Friday Jan 26. We received a total of 747 proposals, including 498 to use ACS/WFC or ACS/HRC. The latter proposals are unlikely to be viable. In order to ensure that we accommodate the science areas covered by those programs, we are extending the HST Cycle 16 deadline.

    We encourage Principal Investigators who submitted proposals for ACS observations with either WFC or HRC to consider whether those observations could be made with WFPC2.
    The new deadline is Friday 9th Feb, extended from 26th Jan.

    Jargon alert for non specialists: ACS = Advanced Camera for Surveys; WFC = Wide Field Camera; HRC = High Resolution Camera; SBC = Solar Blind Channel; CCD = charge coupled device; WFPC2 = Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (an older instrument); STScI = Space Telescope Science Institute; and GSFC = Goddard Space Flight Center.

  • by Bifurcati ( 699683 ) on Monday January 29, 2007 @11:58PM (#17809486) Homepage
    Seems like an appropriate time to post a parody I wrote recently. It's not really up to scratch, but you never know when you might need to sing a Hubble tribute! You can also find other physics songs and humour [] on my home page :)

    Only Me (A Hubble Tribute)
    To the tune of "Only you"
    By Joel Gilmore, 2007

    Looking at the sky up above
    Taking photos with love,
    Can you fix me?
    Found out only yesterday,
    my orbit's soon to decay
    Can't you boost me?


    All I needed was a manned space flight
    All I needed for another night
    Since 1993 -
    only me.

    If I lose one more gyroscope
    I don't know if I'll cope,
    Send Discovery!
    Install Wide Field Camera 3,
    Spectrograph, batteries,
    My camera's dying!


    All I needed was a manned space flight
    All I needed for another night
    Until James Webb, there'll be -
    only ME!

  • No Hubble thread would be complete without the Hubble Deep Field [], the Hubble Deep Field South [] and the Hubble Ultra Deep Field [].
  • by photontaker ( 1020241 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2007 @01:37AM (#17810226)
    I work at STScI and it sounds like they're going to be able to switch ACS back to the side 1 power supply. Unfortunately, it means that the WFC which is the most used won't be working. A failure of the side 1 supply to WFC is why they had to switch to side 2 this summer.

    The good news is that WFPC2 is still working even if it doesn't have the imaging area or sensitivity of ACS. The telescope allocation committee just re-opened applications for next cycle so lots of people are just going to switch their proposals from using ACS to using WFPC2 (myself included). As a side note: anyone can apply for telescope time since its run with taxpayer money. Just go to the site and fill out the form.

    The other good news is that the servicing mission is going ahead for early 2008 when they're going to put in WFPC3 which is a bit better than ACS and will have much lower distortions and a great new spectrograph called COS. That'll take HST to the end of its life in 2013. At that point, the next space telescope, JWST, will be launched. In case you're wondering though, JWST will have a much shorter life since it won't be possible to service it.

    So yeah, it sucks that ACS smoked itself but it's not the end of the world.
  • Tragedy (Score:1, Interesting)

    by severdia ( 745423 )
    This is a tragedy and the first step in the decommission process. NASA is terribly underfunded already (Hey..all those guys NEED $289 toilet seats...) and this will be just one more excuse to cut back more. The Hubble is the best project NASA has right now and for the forseeable future (get it...?) :)

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling