Published: Thu, October 18, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

Another NASA Space Telescope Has Gone Into "Safe Mode"

Another NASA Space Telescope Has Gone Into

NASA is definitely having a hard time with its telescopes.

Chandra automatically and unexpectedly entered "safe mode" late last week, sending its mission specialists on a hunt for the cause.

The cause of Chandra's safe mode on October 10 has now been understood and the Operations team has successfully returned the spacecraft to its normal pointing mode, according to the United States space agency.

NASA's Chandra X-ray telescope -which observes galaxies from the Earth's orbit - is back in action after suffering a technical glitch and going into safe mode last week, the United States space agency said.

The incredible spacecraft boasts what NASA describes as "the largest, most precisely shaped and aligned, and smoothest mirrors ever constructed", and it is now among the most powerful telescopes in the world. Analysis of available data indicates the transition to safe mode was normal behavior for such an event. The Observatory has been observing the universe in high-energy light since 1999.

An artist's conception shows the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.

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Launched by space shuttles in the 1990s, Hubble and Chandra are part of NASA's Great Observatories series.

Besides Chandra and Hubble, NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope is also nearly out of fuel. That issue triggered the space telescope's protective mode. NASA said the issue could involve a failed gyroscope.

One possible reason identified last week was a glitch in a gyroscope that confused the machine and forced it to enter safe mode as a precaution to prevent any damage.

After one of its gyroscopes suffered a technical glitch on October 10, Chandra X-ray Observatory entered safe mode under which the observatory is put into a safe configuration along with critical hardware being swapped to back-up units. The telescope's actions are temporarily suspended until NASA engineers can see if they can fix the issue.

Officials were quick to point out that "all systems functioned as expected" in the abrupt transition, and "the scientific instruments are safe". An astronomer who works on Chandra, Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted Friday that "Chandra decided that if Hubble could have a little vacation, it wanted one, too".

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