Huge hole closes in space telescope

Image copyright NASA Image caption The camera appears to be pointing in one direction, probably towards a dust cloud

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has fallen into safe mode once again.

The telescope has experienced technical problems twice before this year, but this is the first time it has malfunctioned without explanation.

It is heading back into safe mode at 06:15 BST on Monday, after briefly going offline.

The space agency hopes to have the telescope operating again by Tuesday, when there should be no chance of more connectivity failures.

The Hubble Space Telescope was originally launched in 1990 as part of the US’s Space Shuttle Discovery mission.

The science instruments were not swapped out until 1993, and the telescope remained operational until 1997, when it started making periodic forays to repair old photographs taken with the original cameras.

Image copyright NASA Image caption The telescope is facing more space debris, however.

Hubble made its most recent repairs and upgrades in 2009.

Last year, a hiccup in the computer system forced the telescope to enter safe mode two days before a science tour over South America was due to start.

However, the space agency said it did not expect this to happen.

NASA said it would attempt to prevent future malfunctions by developing a new spacecraft to take away dangerous debris, as well as studying the effects on an orbiting telescope.

The spacecraft, called Tess, is part of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), which is expected to launch in the 2020s.

Space agency officials said they do not expect there to be another such system like it in space in the near future.

The Hubble Space Telescope was instrumental in the discovery of an alien planet and a comet.

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