Hubble and Chandra

What happened to Hubble and Chandra?

What happened to the NASA's “Great Observatories” in orbit around the earth and in particular to Hubble and to Chandra? Both space telescopes were put in “safe mode” in recent weeks (from October 5th Hubble, from October 10th Chandra).

After this, immediately the followers of the conspiracy theory have begun to circulate the rumor that there may be something underneath. This also because a few weeks ago, in mid-September 2018, a series of problems had already affected several terrestrial observers (namely the AXIS 232D network telescope, the SOAR observatory, the BRT Tenerife telescope with webcam and the webcams of the Mauna Kea Observatory, of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) and of the JAT Observatory at Fairless Hills).

Are they just coincidences or is there something?

Is it just a coincidence? No, according to the conspiracy theorists, according to whom it could have been a cyber attack, or a sort of general test for a great electromagnetic storm like it was the Carrington event in 1859, or even the attempt to keep even the scientists of NASA hidden from the observation of something that should not, in any case, be shown.

On the other hand, NASA did not try to hide the news in any way, rather it explained that at the moment there are two groups of engineers at work, one to diagnose a problem with Hubble gyroscopes which prevented it from continuing with the observations, the other with a problem not better specified in Chandra that could equally concern the gyroscopes.

Hubble Nasa courtesy

Two space veterans

It must be said that neither Hubble nor Chandra are exactly two “beginners”: Hubble has been put into orbit by Space Shuttle in April 1990 and then received five service missions (the last in 2009) that extended their operational life up to 2030-2040, when its substitute, the James Webb Space Telescope, should already be in operation for many years (the launch is scheduled for 2020).

Chandra, an x-ray space telescope, has been put on orbit alike by the Shuttle in July 1999 and it should have operated for 5 years, then extended to 10 years but now close to 20 years. Unlike Hubble, Chandra is not yet sure he has an heir: the proposed one (Athena) should not be launched before 2028.


A remedy is being studied for Hubble, Chandra ready to work again

But what exactly would happen to the two space telescopes? In the case of Hubble, NASA speaks of a failure in one of the gyroscopes and of improper functioning of another (there are three gyroscopes on board), a failure that prevents Hubble from continuing with the observation of extremely reduced movements.

The NASA engineers in addition to understanding what caused the faults will have to consider the possibility of remediation with commands from the ground (for example, Hubble can also operate with only one gyroscope), not being possible to carry out a sixth service mission in space. For Chandra, which according to the latest communications from NASA should return to operate properly within the next week, it would be a technical problem lasting 3 seconds to a gyroscope.

The NASA engineers decided to use another gyroscope instead of the one that caused the defect, put “on reserve”, waiting to correctly reconfigure the latter to return within the next few days to a fully operational situation. All right well that ends well or was it a procedure to mask something that should not be seen? The judgment on each other is yours.

Tags: Space exploration