back to article Hubble transmissions cease as computer fails

The Hubble space telescope has stopped transmitting data to Earth after a data formatting computer failed. A Shuttle service mission to the telescope has been delayed for four to six months while a replacement formatter and its installation procedures are prepared. The Hubble: not turn-off-and-on-able The Hubble space …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Technical support enquiry

    'Before we can continue, can you read me your serial number? It should be on the underside of your space telescope.'

  2. Paul Murphy

    So they have tried turning it off and on again.

    I'm out of ideas.

    mines the white bulky one with the fish-bowl helmet and overtime form in the pocket.


  3. Peter Jones

    Fail to test the failover?


  4. Steve Mason
    Thumb Down


    The most important part of any DR process is the testing.

    Doesn't matter how resilient your networks/hardware/processes are, if you don't test them, you may as well not bother.

  5. Jonathan White


    What's the point of having a hot spare if they're rather wait six months to repair the primary system than switch it on? And they say it's never been done before.. shouldn't they have tested this stuff before they put it up there?


  6. Anonymous Coward


    hubble> Keyboard Error - not found: Press F1 to continue

    nasa> Dang!

  7. steev
    Paris Hilton

    nervous about a reboot?

    Pretty phenomenal uptime (18years!) but its pleasing to know that even real rocket scientists would rather leave it ticking than risk a reboot. Next time a client asks why we don't just reboot the server/firewall/building....unless of course we're on the good ship HMS MCSE

  8. Frank
    Thumb Down

    WTF! OMG!

    I'm going to have to stop reading ElReg. It's been a morning of shaking my head and muttering 'what a bunch of pillocks' under my breath. It's not just this story, but most of them. What happened to sound engineering practice, tried and tested procedures, good old common sense?

  9. YumDogfood

    Yet another for the RISKS digest.

    Not a hardware fail.

  10. Christoph

    Good timing

    They are very lucky indeed that it didn't wait one more month to fail.

  11. BigTim


    A failsafe system fails when it fails to failsafe.

  12. Charles

    @Jonathan White

    The planned mission to replace the A Unit is more in the nature of a maintenance call; something broke and someone's gotta go up there to fix it, but there's no rush. It's mostly in the nature of a "Plan B". They've never tried to start up the B side in the 18-year history of the Hubble, and there's no telling what kinds of space gremlins could've gotten into the thing in the lengthy interim. They're going to go ahead with the B-side startup and equipment reset, but just in case...

  13. Pie

    they are going to use the spare

    But they it's not a simple operation so it may well go wrong, if thats the case then there will be a 6 month wait for the data.

  14. Mike Crawshaw

    It's a PLOT, I tells ye!!

    This is all a dastardly plot by the Xenuthians - they see the Hubble looking out into space as our early-warning system, and, with that out of the way, they can freely invade and force us all to watch Tom Cruise / John Travolta films forevermore!!!!

  15. James Anderson

    The old Main/BackUp falicy.

    As soon as you refers to one piece of kit as "backup" you instantly diminish its importance. After all you are better off concentrating your efforts on the "main" equipment.

    In this scenario the backup becomes worthless, you know you neglected it so you are reluctant to use it even if you relly need to.

    The way out of this problem is a never use the "main/backup" even "A/B" semantics but something like "currently active/ready". And switch over regularly! Once a week/month/quarter switch systems this way you can be sure the failover procedure works ( and works now this week not 18 years ago when it was last tested!) and it also gives both systems an equal mindshare.

  16. Solomon Grundy


    could have resulted in "prolonged operation at its relatively high operating temperature and/or because of incoming radiation"....

    Why do you need a reason for computer hardware to fail? It's cobbled together bullshit to begin with.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Failiure fail

    "Why do you need a reason for computer hardware to fail? It's cobbled together bullshit to begin with."

    Bless. Guess whichever forums you normally troll before bedtime aren't biting right now.

    Great story BTW, I hate you, El Reg- now I feel guilty about the secondary project video storage machine, and will need to run it up :)

  18. Charles
    IT Angle

    @James Anderson

    And suppose you only have enough resources or capacity for one main unit and a reduced-capacity backup unit, not two main units?

  19. Anonymous John

    @ Good timing

    Two or three months ago would have been even better. Time's running out to finish the ISS. Now they've got another flight to fit in next year.

  20. John
    Paris Hilton

    re: Technical support enquiry

    'Before we can continue, can you read me your serial number? It should be on the underside of your space telescope.'

    You sir owe me a new keyboard, mine now contains half a gob full of pomegranate herbal tea... well, it doesn't really, but it damned near did, very funny :]

    Paris icon, because she can keep hot fluids in her mouth... not entirely my ambition to fully emulate any further than tea I must add.

  21. yeah, right.

    how much?

    Just how much are they paying the people who never tested the backup system, and didn't bother to even make sure the backup system WAS a backup?

    I'm betting the techs scheduled the tests, then some management puke turned it down because it would have been charged against their budget. Instead, they'd rather let it fail so that repairs are charged against someone elses budget. I've seen this happen too often. Said management puke should be drowned. In a latrine.

  22. RW

    IT advances in 18 years

    It's a golden opportunity to show how good Vista is! Yes! Vista! Vista! Vista!

    Rip out all that antiquted old crap and install Vista! Vista! Vista!

    What's that you say? Hubble's been rootkitted? And it's been zombified? And it's spewing spam down on the earthlings like hot meteorites? And it just called home for an update? And the DRM blocked the transmission of the images back to the mother ship on the grounds that they're unlicensed media?

    Oh dear.

  23. TJ

    Hubble 404 Error

    "404, Hubble cannot be accessed, please try your request later"

    The good news is, Now we can outsource the repairs to China!

  24. James O'Brien


    I think its time to go digging in the basement for the Windows 1 install media.....

    *ring ring* Yeah NASA? Yeah I have the install discs your looking for. Great great nice to know you need them, I seel them to you (in best Dr Evil impression) 1 BILLION dollars. What no? You have to go through Congress for funding? Damn. How about just a million?

    I can see that call now.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    I want my Hubble

    Need piccies. Please fix. Thank you

    Paris, 'cuz she could help erect my 'scope.

  26. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    So they have to send a Shuttle to mend it?

    Well, that's shut me up about bitching over the walk to HR to reconnect a printer...

  27. IcerG

    SLA - response times ?

    I would like to check the response times agreed to on the on the SLA for a fix by the field engineer....

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    DRP offshored

    "The backup Side B unit has not been fired up since Hubble went into orbit 18 years ago and, were it to be switched on as planned, the five other instruments would need resetting to use it. In theory, this can be done remotely from ground control at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, although it has never been done before."

    Brilliant, DRP engineering offshored to <include your fav. offshoring location> !

  29. Wortel

    Nice uptime

    18 years up in orbit around earth in a punishing atmosphere isn't bad at all, and they are wise to delay bringing up the spares in HUBBLE until they are good and ready for take-off to send in the replacements, before a bad reboot loses them valuable data onboard. Plain common sense at work :)

    Well done HUBBLE!

  30. Anonymous Coward


    "What happened to sound engineering practice, tried and tested procedures, good old common sense?....."

    Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years.

    No one knows for sure how old he was, as his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.

    He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, life isn’t always fair, and maybe it was my fault.

    Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

    His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place.

    Reports of a six-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

    Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job they failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

    He declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer Paracetamol, sun lotion or a sticky plaster to a student but could not inform the parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

    He began to lose the will to live as churches became businesses; creationism vied for equal footing with proper science, alternative treatments became available on the NHS (while cancer drugs were banned) and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

    The poor bloke took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar can sue you for assault.

    He finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realise that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

    Barely recovering from that he was bludgeoned to death by the news that the world's financial markets had been demonlished by irresponsible bankers who made a fortune doing so and who the governments bailed out by demanding money from those wise enough to have adopted sensible fiscal policies.

    This grand old man was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust, his wife, Discretion, his daughter, Responsibility; and his son, Reason.

    He is survived by four stepbrothers; "I Know My Rights", "Someone Else's Problem", "I’m A Victim" and "Work? I'm better of on the Dole" and his stepsisters, "Gymslip Mother" and "I'll have a baby and they'll give me a house".

    Not many attended his funeral because so few realised he was gone. If you still remember him, pass this on. If not join the majority and do nothing.

  31. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: @frank...

    >He is survived by four stepbrothers; "I Know My Rights", "Someone Else's Problem", "I’m A Victim" and "Work? I'm better of on the Dole" and his stepsisters, "Gymslip Mother" and "I'll have a baby and they'll give me a house".

    Personally I think it's a bit remiss of you not to acknowledge his second cousin "Is it just me or is everything shit?", and his estranged twin "Ooh if you're going to the shop could you pick up a Mail for me? And a Crunchie bar. Thanks".

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