back to article Hubble Space Telescope sails serenely on in safe mode after efforts to switch to backup memory modules fail

The Hubble Space Telescope has continued to resist efforts by NASA last week to bring its payload computer back online. It has now been more than a week since the computer halted on Sunday 13 June. An attempt to restart it the following Monday failed with initial indications pointing to a failing memory module. At the time, a …

  1. John Robson Silver badge

    Wishful thinking...

    SpaceX have the delta V and life support available on the dragon

    What they don't have is the arm (though I am sure one could be deployed in the trunk) or the airlock or the EVA suits.

    They could go all gemini and just vent the atmosphere until they get back in, but that doesn't seem like a particularly likely scenario.

    1. Sparkus Bronze badge

      Re: Wishful thinking...

      Indeed. The El Reg statement "Despite wishful thinking by some SpaceX fans, a further fix-it flight is highly unlikely," is baseless.

      Given Musks' need for the occasional spectacular display of something or the other, I'd posit that such a mission is more than likely.

      1. trsanford

        Re: Wishful thinking...

        Right. Wonderful things appear on the leading edge, and for some reason are not duplicated before they wear out or disappear from view.

        NASA awarded the Hubble Telescope objective-mirror contract to Perkin-Elmer; the losing bidder was Kodak. This all was discussed in considerable depth when the winning mirror, built into the instrument and shot off into orbit, turned out to have an aberration. As it happened, the Hubble instrument's accessibility to astronauts enabled the agency to calculate, assemble and install an optical corrector.

        There is great demand for viewing-time on pretty nearly all astronomical telescopes, even ones of much more modest specification than Hubble. The Kodak mirror is on display at a museum, from which it could be retrieved. NASA now knows how to build successful space telescopes. The only really serious expense would be a launch vehicle, but surely the people planning joyrides for billionaires could be persuaded to lend a hand ... perhaps by way of apologizing for all the shiny space litter.

        T.R. Sanford

      2. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Wishful thinking...

        If it is fully decommissioned I can see Musk using Hubble recovery as a starship test flight.

        That would be spectacular. But what would you launch in its place? A more modern version of the same? Something with even bigger mirrors (either a 8.5m one to sit inside the starship fairing or multiple 8m hexagons to be assembled in orbit?)

        The spectral capability of Hubble (particularly IR IIRC) can't be reproduced on the ground - it's not a matter of adaptive optics, but of atmospheric absorption.

        Given current hardware, what would you add to a Hubble 2.0?

        Or would we be better off skipping Hubble 2.0 and going straight to a moon based telescope? Musk is getting perilously close to being able to put a significant amount of stuff there after all (and by the time a Hubble recovery trip could be made)

        1. hoola Silver badge

          Re: Wishful thinking...

          Given the billions that have been committed to James Webb Telescope I rather fear that anything that is going to replace Hubble is unlikely. Maybe there is space for a private replacement but then there will be all the issues of access, is it paid for etc, etc.

          Maybe a philanthropic mission to repair it would be possible but it needs the agreement of NASA and if NASA decide to write Hubble off because of its age there is little to be done.

          Hubble is an amazing resource that has produced not only some incredible science but also images from space that have captivated the general public.

          I hope they are able to fix it but I think as time passes the outlook is not optimistic.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Boffin

            Re: Wishful thinking...

            JWST and Hubble are not equivalent. Hubble works in near infrared (to ~1.6μm), visible and UV. JWST will work from 0.6–28.3μm. It can just see visible wavelengths (0.6μm is orange), but is not significantly usable in visible light.

            JWST lets us to a lot of things that Hubble can not do, but Hubble can do things that JWST can't do.

            1. Glen 1 Silver badge

              Re: Wishful thinking...

              The reasoning for this is that when you are looking at the *really* far away stuff, its all red-shifted anyway.

              The VLT was surpassing Hubble in optical wavelengths as long ago as 2012 (first interferometry - according to Wiki).

              For a concrete (and more recent - 2018) example - Neptune

    2. HildyJ Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Wishful thinking...

      SpaceX suits are not EVA suits. They are flight suits that have to stay connected. Plus the Dragon was not designed to allow exiting in a full NASA EVA suit.

      The only current spacecraft that might be capable of servicing Hubble is the super secret X-37b mini shuttle. It can launch satellites so it may already have a robotic arm but a robotic tool assembly would have to be developed (and DoD would have to agree).

      Unless NASA wants to move to the third step of the IT Recovery Procedures Handbook:

      1) Reboot it (check)

      2) Turn it off and on (check)

      3) Hit it (?)

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Wishful thinking...

        "SpaceX suits are not EVA suits. They are flight suits that have to stay connected. Plus the Dragon was not designed to allow exiting in a full NASA EVA suit."

        Pretty sure I had that covered when I said they didn't have the EVA suits or airlock ;)

        1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

          Re: Wishful thinking...

          I had to look up EVA suits to find out if they were what I thought they were (and they were).

          What first came to mind, however, were angsty 14 year old Japanese children controlling massive mechs fighting Angels, as in here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTrYkdZo90Y

      2. batfink Silver badge

        Re: Wishful thinking...

        Hmmm. You'd need a special Space Hammer for 3)...

    3. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Wishful thinking...

      Why bother to service Hubble? Asking SpaceX to launch the *pair* of unused spy scopes the NRO donated to NASA a decade back would surely be a better move.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_National_Reconnaissance_Office_space_telescope_donation_to_NASA

      1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: Wishful thinking...

        I suspect that spy satellites are designed to look at objects on Earth rather than deep space. While there is some overlap, the specifications differ quite a bit between the two functions.

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: Wishful thinking...

          > spy satellites are designed to look at objects on Earth rather than deep space

          Pfft. It's just like HHGttG's HOWTO guide to Flying:

          Simply look at the Earth and, at the last possible moment, miss.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Boffin

        Re: Wishful thinking...

        Summary: 'just launch one of the NRO telescopes' is not a simple answer: turning one into a functional telescope and launching it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and take years. And the resulting instrument would not be equivalent to Hubble (although it would be useful).

        The NRO telescopes are currently essentially empty boxes with some rather good optical systems in them. All of the electronics is missing: either because it was removed before they were donated or because it was never installed. To turn them from what they are into working telescopes would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. and take a correspondingly long time.

        Further they're not actually equivalent to Hubble at all: they have a shorter forcal length and thus a wider field of view (something like 10x angle of Hubble and so 100x area). That would mean they make great survey telescopes but they're not just more Hubbles.

        One of the plans to use (one of) these was for the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, formerly WFIRST – the wide-field infrared survey telescope (note the 'survey'!). I'm not sure of the current status of this, but for a long time it just wasn't clear whether using the NRO telescopes would make WFIRST less, or more expensive. I think they would make it better as the mirror is bigger than what was previously planned (but there are questions around cooling I think).

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    This is starting to look bad

    I sincerely hope that Hubble will be able to come back online.

    The James Webb telescope is not a replacement for Hubble, we need both to work together and improve our knowlegde of Space and Science in general.

    Best wishes to the engineers. I'm sure they're racking their brains to the nth degree to solve this issue.

    1. sebacoustic

      Re: This is starting to look bad

      > we need both to work together and improve our knowledge of Space and Science

      agreed, might add that efforts to bring flesh bags* into space would be considerably lower on my priority list, which appears to be driven in part by politicians' need for showy distraction projects.

      (*) sending an engineer where s/he is more capable than a service robot to fix Hubble excluded

    2. JDX Gold badge

      Re: This is starting to look bad

      it's 'space' and 'science'. Capitalisation implies deification :)

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: This is starting to look bad

        >Capitalisation implies deification

        Not writing the word at all implies deification, although the way things are going over here getting stoned for saying 'Science' is looking increasingly likely

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          getting stoned for saying 'Science' is looking increasingly likely

          It used to be the word 'Jehovah', but I guess that was getting a bit old.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: getting stoned for saying 'Science' is looking increasingly likely

            No you're allowed to say Jehovah because it's not the name.

            Nobody knows what the name that you can't say is - because it wasn't told to anybody ....

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: getting stoned for saying 'Science' is looking increasingly likely

              So they stoned Mathias just for the halibut?

              1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

                Re: getting stoned for saying 'Science' is looking increasingly likely

                [Username fits]

        2. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

          Re: This is starting to look bad

          No, lying about science and then claiming (your) Science is above questioning will get you stoned!

          "If you question me your questioning Science!"

          What an utterly egotistical, self important statement uttered by someone who was just exposed for lying under oath to congress,

    3. Swiss Anton

      Re: This is starting to look bad

      Hubble has far exceeded it original design remit. It has provided so much data that they will still be analysing it long after it stops working. My only hope is that when the end is really nigh, they point it back home, and let it burn up in the atmosphere so that it doesn't add to the ever growing "pile" of space junk

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: This is starting to look bad

        My only hope is that when the end is really nigh, they point it back home

        The words 'can' and 'will' are missing in your sentence. This time it's not the gyros or the orientation controller, but if that one fails, or the receiver goes deaf there won't be much pointing it anywhere any more.

        1. Swiss Anton

          Re: This is starting to look bad

          I worked on software for the Envisat sattellite. It died / suddenly went deaf. I know it's not always possible to re-enter old spacecraft, but it has to be in your plan to try to do so if you can.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: This is starting to look bad

        >they point it back home let it burn up in the atmosphere

        There is no fuel to 'point it back home', there was a plan to add a de-orbit motor but the shuttle got cancelled.

        >so that it doesn't add to the ever growing "pile" of space junk

        Don't worry it won't.

        Do worry that 2tonnes of solid mirror etc will reach the ground.

        The orbit only reaches the tip of Florida so most of the USA is safe - you only need to worry if you live in the tropics.

        1. Swiss Anton

          Re: This is starting to look bad

          If they can fix Hubble's optics, then I can't see any reason whty they can't attach a small rocket motor to force it's re-entry. It would be easy enough to ensure that it then comes down over an ocean. As to creating more space junk - satellites have been known to collide, so I would suggest getting it out of orbit when it's of no furthure use should be a priority.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Boffin

            Re: This is starting to look bad

            Because when they fixed the optics they had shuttles, which were designed for exactly this kind of mission. Now they don't and no, the SpaceX things are not designed to do this.

  3. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    And shut the door on your way out ...

    I seem to remember it was the last mission that resulted in the door being kicked to make it latch properly.

    Even if they could schedule another mission in some way, I would be asking whether it was still physically possible to perform the service and leave the satellite in an operational state ... I think a lot more remote power cycling and reconfig is in order.

    I for one would be sorry to see it go. Alongside JW it would continue to make and amazing broad spectrum tool as JW is simply not designed to do most of what Hubble can. On the other hand, there are now ground based facitities that are as good or better than Hubble for some of the spectrum.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: And shut the door on your way out ...

      > On the other hand, there are now ground based facitities that are as good or better than Hubble for some of the spectrum.

      ...which will be progressively blinded by the clouds of Internet satellite constellations shot up there, Starlink being the first one.

      Funnily enough to counter this, people in this very forum told me that nowadays all telescopes should be space-based, simply ignoring that it's not like we are even able to keep Hubble operational and get James Webb off the ground (supposed to be launched 15 years ago, remember?). Case in point, Hubble has hardware problems, and while NASA might manage to work around them for a while, we simply can't repair them anymore: Hubble is doomed because of a couple hundred dollars worth of components.

      The slight but fundamental difference between what we're able to do right now, and what we should be able to do (potentially, eventually) is apparently very difficult to apprehend.

      Even in that wishful-thinking dreamworld, where each small $5-million ground-based telescope is readily replaced by a $10-billion space one, we simply don't have the technology anymore to keep them running. Yes, we might have the potential, but it's still just a potential.

      /rant

      1. HereIAmJH

        Re: And shut the door on your way out ...

        ..which will be progressively blinded by the clouds of Internet satellite constellations shot up there, Starlink being the first one.

        Simple, make it a requirement that Starlink(SpaceX) create a replacement for Hubble and launch it on their dime. Then we'd be good for the next 30 years.

        You could call it a good faith gesture to astronomers, or a cost of doing business like subdivision developers that have to do initial public roads and utilities.

        1. ponga

          Re: And shut the door on your way out ...

          <blockquote>Simple, make it a requirement that Starlink(SpaceX) create a replacement for Hubble and launch it on their dime. Then we'd be good for the next 30 years.

          You could call it a good faith gesture to astronomers, or a cost of doing business like subdivision developers that have to do initial public roads and utilities.</blockquote>

          Would you care to make a back of the envelope calculation as to exactly how many space telescopes it would take to replace all the ground based observation hours getting ruined just by Starlink satellite trails? Better book all the Falcon 9's for the next five years, is my guess. Apart from the cost of designing and building those telescopes, of course.

          Elon isn't paying for his externalities. I love the rocketry, but I hate the negligence behind his financing business plan.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Alien

            Re: And shut the door on your way out ...

            Musk's business plan is 'make things better for Musk'.

      2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: And shut the door on your way out ...

        @ThatOne: great rant. However, until Arecibo is replaced then I think we can say that ground-based astronomy is significantly under-appreciated.

        1. ThatOne Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: And shut the door on your way out ...

          > we can say that ground-based astronomy is significantly under-appreciated

          Here, fixed it for you...

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: And shut the door on your way out ...

      I think you're remembering an incident from the first service mission where one of the astronauts anchored himself to HST so that he could put more force on the door using his shoulder:

      (From: https://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/missions/sts-61/mission-sts-61.html)

      "The astronauts struggled with the latches on the gyro door when two of four gyro door bolts did not reset after the astronauts installed two new gyro packages. Engineers who evaluated the situation speculated that when the doors were unlatched and opened, a temperature change might have caused them to expand or contract enough to keep the bolts from being reset.

      With the efforts of determined astronauts in Endeavour's payload bay and persistent engineers on the ground, all four bolts finally latched and locked after the two spacewalkers worked simultaneously at the top and bottom of the doors. Musgrave anchored himself at the bottom of the doors with a payload retention device which enabled him to use some body force against the doors. Hoffman, who was attached to the robot arm, worked at the top of the doors. The duo successfully latched the doors when they simultaneously latched the top and bottom latches. "

      Also interesting read on the events leading up to SM1 and why it was so important to NASA: https://history.nasa.gov/SP-4219/Chapter16.html

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: And shut the door on your way out ...

        >anchored himself to HST so that he could put more force on the door using his shoulder:

        NASA needs a space blowtorch, space breaker bar, space spare bit of scaffold pole, space impact wrench and space swearing

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: And shut the door on your way out ...

          And a convenient space fulcrum.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And shut the door on your way out ...

          Don't forget space WD-40 and space duct tape!

          1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

            Re: And shut the door on your way out ...

            In Rod we trust.

            https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C6qHvI6V4AAttWu.jpg

          2. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: And shut the door on your way out ...

            While they don't have WD-40 (Not a pleasant product to use inside a sealed aluminium can in space, with minimal air processing, due to offgassing) they do have duct tape (And with the help of some high schoolers they even have some special dispensers for it now). They also have kapton tape, aluminium tape, scotch tape, PVC tape and aluminium tape iirc.

        3. NXM

          Re: And shut the door on your way out ...

          Space baler twine. Fixes everything including keeping your trousers up.

    3. Fred Daggy

      Re: And shut the door on your way out ...

      I would hope that NASA would fix/refuel all the bits that they could on that one mission, if it ever took place.

      So much great science from the Hubble Space Telescope and JW will expand our understanding. Hubble will continue as well. But, it could also (for example) be turned over to the kids, I imagine that it would inspire two generations of future scientists. We could get another CERN or 10 full of smart people in science with that type of inspiration.

    4. Timbo

      Re: And shut the door on your way out ...

      ..and there was me thinking that on the last service mission in 2009, they fitted an Alexa module, so all they need do is use the voice command:

      "Open the pod bay doors please HST"...

      and lo, the pod doors would stay shut and they'd hear:

      "I'm sorry Dave I'm afraid ! can't do that!"

      1. Robert Moore
        Coat

        Re: And shut the door on your way out ...

        I space Amazon can't hear you say Alexa?

        Good to know.

      2. arachnoid2 Bronze badge

        Re: And shut the door on your way out ...

        We need commander Data, no need for space suits, but as he died saving Captain Picard we would need to reassemble his younger brother. That said, working with cybernetics is banned on Earth after the robot revolution.

        Maybe we could use one of those Area 57 spaceships if we could figure out how to fly it. Why are there no Borg Cubes handy when you need one.

    5. hoola Silver badge

      Re: And shut the door on your way out ...

      I am not so sure about ground-based.

      Atmospheric pollution and then all the new cubesat swarms are making that unlikely.

      Also a lot of the newer ground based telescopes a not in visible for the very reason that the atmosphere messes up so much of the wavelengths.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: And shut the door on your way out ...

        Telescopes can have all kind of tasks, and for most of those tasks, earth-based is just fine and sometimes even better. Mostly because ground-based telescopes are way cheaper than space-based ones (>1000 times cheaper), and thus there are more of them, which means you can afford to assign some to long-time observations which Hubble or J. Webb could never do.

        As for the atmospheric turbulence problem, adaptive optics have largely alleviated that problem: Shoot a laser beam up, check what atmosphere does to it, program your mirror to compensate. Works just fine.

        But most important, a telescope isn't a fixed configuration, you modify it quite often because of your needs (different instrument), because technology improved (better instrument), or simply because something broke... In space doing this would be simply impossible right now, and at best a billion-dollar project taking a year to prepare, while on earth this is something you can do at any time, requiring just a couple hours and a forklift.

        Space-based telescopes are just one specific tool in a toolbox. They can't and won't ever replace ground-based telescopes, it is like claiming planes should replace cars.

  4. vtcodger Silver badge

    Power Off

    "Have you tried turning it off and on again?"

    I've been told by folks that actually command satellites that power cycling and switching to backup components that affect command/control are last resorts only to be tried after everything else has failed. Makes sense. What's the fallback if you power down and the satellite or its communications system fails to come back up????

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Power Off

      "What's the fallback if you power down and the satellite or its communications system fails to come back up????"

      A visit to the Vatican to ask for some divine intervention?

    2. BarryManilowesfarmerbro

      Re: Power Off

      The most common bug that comes out of nowhere is a power bug.

      Just leave the unit running 24/7 because if you turn it off, it may never power up again.

      This will happen when the power-up circuits are bad and are never known or discovered until the next power up.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Power Off

        Then you launch the GSB (giant space boot) to give it a kick

        1. vogon00

          Re: Power Off

          Right idea, unattractive terminology :-)

          These days, I suspect it needs a snappier acronym to satisfy the PR wonks.... something more space-y like "SPACE" Tool : 'Space-bourn Percussive Adjustment and Correction, Enhanced'.

          Come to think of it that's not too bad...certainly closer to the truth that Tesla's "Autopilot"..

  5. Zenubi

    Divine intervention is a legacy technology long depreciated by most modern units of intelligence. (It never actually got out of alpha.)

    1. BarryManilowesfarmerbro

      The last step after divine intervention is using smoke, magic and mirrors. We have used that numerous times to fix a mainframe.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      >Divine intervention is a legacy technology long depreciated by most modern units of intelligence.

      Or you're just living in a unit-test universe

      1. Zenubi

        Aargh ! - In which case I have one or two things to say to QA

      2. lglethal Silver badge
        Trollface

        It certainly makes sense that we are the test universe. You wouldnt bring half the dodgy work arounds and other associated bollocks of this universe into a production universe if you had the choice...

  6. JDX Gold badge

    Douglas Adams called it

    There's clearly been a fault in the fault-detection module.

    Click, hum.

    1. DailyLlama
      Mushroom

      Re: Douglas Adams called it

      Red Dwarf too:

      Cat : Well, according to the Damage Report Machine, there are several small fires in the cockpit, lots of smoke and the Navicomp's fizzing.

      [the Damage Report Machine explodes]

      Cat : Oh, damn! Now the Damage Report Machine's exploded!

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Alien

        Re: Douglas Adams called it

        Between Hitchhikers & Dwarf.

        RANGE: Oh, systems that could rebuild a civilisation for us. Failure-proof technology.

        DOCTOR: What happened to it all?

        RANGE: It failed. And nothing survived the crash.

  7. Uncle Ron

    Just Another Keyhole

    Hubble is just a Keyhole spy satellite that's pointing up instead of down. I know that is a simplistic comparison, but Hubble was made in the same factory by the same company with the same basic components. We have ONE Hubble. How many Keyholes are there and just exactly what good do we get from them? How much stunning science and fantastic images and inspiring insight have we gotten from Hubble? And how much from the Keyholes? We could probably put up another Hubble with 2020's computers in 12 months if we only had some real leadership in this country. It makes me want to hurl.

    1. stiine Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Just Another Keyhole

      Rant on. Why not just suggest that we flip an existing KH-11 satellite so that it points outward instead of inward?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      Re: Just Another Keyhole

      No, no it's not. It may have an optical system which is broadly equivalent (but actually is not equivalent at all) to a Keyhole satellite, but that's it: everything else is different.

  8. Potemkine! Silver badge

    the James Webb Space Telescope is finally set for launch in the coming months

    Are you sure?

    1. WonkoTheSane

      It's currently scheduled for no earlier than Oct 31st 2021.

      However, NASA is waiting for ArianeSpace to resolve an issue with fairing separation on the Ariane 5 rocket JWST is booked to ride on. Ariane hasn't launched since August.

  9. DS999 Silver badge

    Sounds like Hubble's software needs an update

    Some sort of deadman's switch so that if it has been in safe mode for a certain length of time, it will attempt to reboot using a different computer and memory module, switching through all eight combinations on each subsequent safe mode entering / reboot.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Sounds like Hubble's software needs an update

      There are different levels of safe mode - and also different levels of desperation. In general, if they're nto sure what's going on, they tend to not do anything but testing on the backup hardware on the ground, until they are. Hence these problems tend to get fixed slowly.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing lasts these days

    I told them steam was the way to go.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Nothing lasts these days

      The problem with steam is that the space-stokers would probably have gone on strike way before now, due to a lack of space-hookers.

      We should have used horses.

  11. PhilipN Silver badge

    Bottomless Money Pit

    In his book on cosmology Martin Rees was scathing about the Hubble Telescope, its costs, delays, politics and as compared with (better) satellite technology which became available during the delays ultimately hopeless by comparison.

    NASA has contributed hugely to humanity but sometimes they need to find a reverse gear.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just pay the bitcoin.

    Trying to recover the drive data will take months, and may never work. The only way to get Hubble back on line is to pay the ransom and get the encryption key...

  13. arachnoid2 Bronze badge

    Preplanned obsolencense

    The present scenario and the eventual loss of the device due to lack of preplanned maintenance should already have a detailed procedure written many years ago with the loss of any viable space transport to service the module. As many of you will know not every problem can be sorted out over the phone no matter how much redundant hardware you have. No US government wants to invest vast sums of money into NASA beyond what it already has, so no magic shuttle replacement on the horizon only the Uber space services.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      Re: Preplanned obsolencense

      It does: that's the procedure they've executing now. They're just executing it slowly and cautiously because that's how you do things in space.

  14. Binraider Bronze badge

    As spectacular and valuable as Hubble has proved, launching a new, not-overspecced observatory would likely be significantly less complicated than another repair mission.

  15. sp1nyn0rman

    Now I'm just an old duffer when it comes to space tech but...

    I seem to recall NASA had a EVA Backpack to get astronauts around in space, so could they not send all the bits needed to construct one, plus all the kit for repairs to the ISS and get a guy to travel to the HST, do the repair, then travel back to the ISS?

    or even some sort of sled...

    I know the fuel requiremnets alone would probably prohibit this as I saw an artilcle on bringing the HST to the ISS which was a no-no for the fuel required, but sending a payload specialst is a lot less mass than a whole habitat.

    It's just a thought though - and you never know it may be possible if deadly dangerous...

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Now I'm just an old duffer when it comes to space tech but...

      They'd also want boring things like oxygen and food.

      Plus the suits on the ISS are old and not functioning in tip-top order anymore. Which is less of a problem when you're only a few feet from an airlock, than when you're off on a space jaunt.

      Just because you've got the fuel to cover the distance, doesn't mean you're going very fast.

      The next technology we need to make satellite repair viable, is some sort of in-orbit taxi. Something you can re-use and refuel - and 2 astronauts can live in for a few weeks. But to get that, you need spare crew in space that can be sent off on such jaunts, plus refuelling and repair capacity - to keep them working. I guess we're going to try some of this with the lunar gateway - but it all still seems quite a long way off with government space programmes.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Now I'm just an old duffer when it comes to space tech but...

      It's AFAIK a 200 km altitude difference between the two orbits (twice the altitude from sea-level to the official limit of "space", or half the entire orbit altitude of the ISS).

      It would take an incredible lot of fuel and time (weeks/months) to go from one to another. Given you'd have to first schlep that fuel up, it would probably be easier and cheaper to do a direct Earth-to-Hubble trip. If only we had a spaceship capable of doing this... Even the Shuttles were at their limits, and Star Trek/Wars notwithstanding, we don't really have the capacity to (reliably!) send humans anywhere further than the ISS anymore.

  16. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
    Coat

    Stuck in Safe Mode?

    Shouldn't have used windows then...

    1. arachnoid2 Bronze badge

      Re: Stuck in Safe Mode?

      Its not windows its Deep Orbital Space (DOS)

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