That space telescope of space telescopes, NASA's Hubble, has suffered a serious setback this Saturday, and may never recover. The ACS (advanced camera for surveys), the main camera on the telescope, which was installed in 2002 and multiplied discovery capability by 10, has entered "safe mode," and NASA has little hope of a fix. A final shuttle-based repair mission is planned for 2008, but NASA already has a good bit on its to-do list, and since the ACS is such a complicated fix, it doesn't look like the Hubble will have use of its main camera for the rest of its duration in space. "In order to access the box cover and restore capability we would need to turn off the cooling system, and disconnect connections to the control module. It's a big job, the area is pretty limited; we are already challenged enough to do the other repairs and this spacewalk would be considerably more labor-intensive." Said Preston Burch, Hubble associate director at the Goddard Space Flight Center. Upgrades that will happen include new nickel hydrogen batteries, a couple of gyroscopes for locking on to targets, along with a new wide-field camera, "cosmic origins spectrograph," guidance sensor and outer protective layer. This should at least keep the Hubble running until 2013, and by then the Webb should be launched to replace the aging Hubble. Five back-to-back spacewalks will be required to fix the Hubble, but some say it's worth the risk to "save the Hubble," so perhaps NASA will figure out a way to squeeze it in by the 2008 flight.

[Via MetaFilter]

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