NASA’s Hubble telescope ‘on its last legs’ as faulty gear found in IT glitch

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is "on its last legs" after scientists discovered faulty gear while carrying out checks following a computer glitch.

Scientists uncovered a safety door that had failed to close and a camera had been taken offline after the IT error saw Hubble enter "safe mode" on Sunday.

The space telescope, which has helped find black holes and determine the age of the universe since going into Earth's orbit in 1990, returned to operational mode in the early hours of Friday.

Space expert Neel Patel has said the glitch showed the historic telescope was on its "last legs".

He wrote in MIT Technology Review: "Sunday’s announcement does once again remind us that Hubble is old! It's three decades of service are more than anyone expected, and the telescope is on its last legs from here. How much longer does the observatory really have, and what happens when it’s finally gone?"

Space Telescope Science Institute’s director Kenneth Sembach has predicted the Hubble could keep going until 2025.

Last April he wrote: "Being realistic, I think Hubble’s got a good five years left. And we’re operating the observatory in a way meant to keep it scientifically productive out to 2025. Does this mean we’ll get to 2025? No, something could go wrong tomorrow. This is the space business, after all. But, then again, maybe we could get to 2030."

A statement for the US space agency said: "Hubble entered safe mode on Sunday, March 7, shortly after 4 a.m. EST, following detection of a software error within the spacecraft’s main computer.

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"The mission operations team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center identified the software error in an enhancement recently uploaded to the spacecraft to help compensate for fluctuations from one of its gyroscopes.

"The team will update the software enhancement so the fix can be uploaded to the spacecraft in the future. In the meantime, the enhancement will be prohibited from being used.

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"In entering safe mode on Sunday, however, the team discovered that the aperture door located at the top of the telescope failed to automatically close."

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