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Hubble Camera Shuts Down 106

Posted by samzenpus
from the in-space-nobody-can-see-you-scream dept.
Maggie McKee writes "Hubble's main camera is offline again, but the problem does not appear to be with its power supply, like it was this summer. This time, the issue seems to be the electronics on the sharpest of its three camera-like channels, the High Resolution Channel. NASA says the worst-case scenario is that the ACS could lose half the channel's field of view, so it would take longer to observe its targets. If the problems are truly unrelated, it's been an especially unlucky few months for this instrument!"
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Hubble Camera Shuts Down

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @10:28PM (#16223839)
    Main screen turn on.
  • by creimer (824291) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @10:40PM (#16223915) Homepage
    Maybe the camera got smacked by a lost bolt from the International Space Station?
    • or the Intel 486 cpu stoped working.
    • by kalirion (728907)
      No, it was blinded by a laser from China.
  • Things aren't built to last forever. Anyone know what the envisioned life of the ACS is? (no pun intended)
    • "Things aren't built to last forever. Anyone know what the envisioned life of the ACS is? (no pun intended)"

      I'm not sure, but my Fault Prediction Center reports that the AE-35 unit may fail within seventy-two hours.

  • I bet NASA has some sweet solar vaporizers. Cosmic weed...? Did someone call p-funk or something?
  • by grozzie2 (698656) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @10:51PM (#16223989)
    Ok, cue up all the shuttle enthusiasts to pipe in now with the 'drastic need for a hubble service mission'.

    When you do though, ask a simple reality check question. With shuttle trips running on the order of a billion dollars these days, what will generate more actual scientific data? Squander those kind of funds on a rocket ride to fix the aging hubble, or, invest half of it in modern ground based observing infrastructure, then take the other half and feed it into the scientific welfare system known as grants over a period of 20 years.

    • When you do though, ask a simple reality check question. With shuttle trips running on the order of a billion dollars these days, what will generate more actual scientific data? Squander those kind of funds on a rocket ride to fix the aging hubble, or, invest half of it in modern ground based observing infrastructure, then take the other half and feed it into the scientific welfare system known as grants over a period of 20 years.

      Booooooring. Unless there are astronauts involved, you won't get anyone's

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by JackieBrown (987087)
        Wrong.....

        Should read "Unless there are astronauts involved, and unless something terrible may happen to them, you won't get anyone's attention.
        • by Firehed (942385)
          I think that strapping themselves to tens of thousands of pounds of rocket fuel and then launching themselves off the face of the Earth - literally - puts them at pretty high risk of something terrible happening. Maybe that's negated by the fact that it's in the job description.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Shag (3737)

      With shuttle trips running on the order of a billion dollars these days, what will generate more actual scientific data? Squander those kind of funds on a rocket ride to fix the aging hubble, or, invest half of it in modern ground based observing infrastructure, then take the other half and feed it into the scientific welfare system known as grants over a period of 20 years.

      Modern ground based observing infrastructure... we've already got that, don't we? With adaptive optics or interferometry, Keck can g

      • by Firethorn (177587)
        The 1 billion launch cost for the shuttle, combined with advances in ground observatory systems is what has led me to believe that our best solution if we are going to have an orbital telescope/observation system is to design a new one and launch a new one. Retire the hubble.

        Even at the size of a schoolbus, a properly designed replacement satellite would still be a whole lot lighter than the shuttle, and safer in that you won't be launching people in it to go out in a space suit to conduct maintenance and
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Fnkmaster (89084)
      While I generally agree with you, the billion dollar figure is an *average* cost per mission, not a marginal cost per mission. On the margin, the incremental mission cost is about $60M dollars. If you "cost" out some smaller fraction of the fixed costs to a marginal shuttle mission added to service Hubble, you might be able to justify saying it "costs" a few hundred million.

      Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_program [wikipedia.org].

      Anyway, the cost of the Hubble was $1.5B at time of launch (excluding al
      • by Firethorn (177587)
        Anyway, the cost of the Hubble was $1.5B at time of launch (excluding all the operating and maintenance costs since then). If we assume the replacement cost would be about that much (less design cost, but in 2006 dollars it would be costlier - let's figure that's a wash), then another shuttle mission would be well worth it over a replacement Hubble telescope.

        Then again, you'd also have to figure that they can update/improve many parts of the replacement satellite that they can't do with the old satellite.
    • actually, there is a grant flow-on from hubble operations, in that observing time on HST can translate directly into money (e.g. HST General Observer grants).

      Further, HST has made many observations that are simply not possible from the ground, even with 8m-class telescope and adaptive optics (which are notoriously difficult to get working). E.g. observing in the UV is simply not possible from ground-based telescopes.
    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmail. c o m> on Thursday September 28, 2006 @12:55AM (#16224835) Homepage
      With shuttle trips running on the order of a billion dollars these days, what will generate more actual scientific data? Squander those kind of funds on a rocket ride to fix the aging hubble, or, invest half of it in modern ground based observing infrastructure,

      Spending on Hubble - absolutely no question. Ground based infrastructure (no matter how modern) cannot;
      • see the wavelengths that Hubble can (they don't penetrate the atmosphere)
      • see as faint an object as Hubble can (the light doesn't penetrate the atmosphere)
      • see as fine a details as Hubble can (that pesky atmosphere again - though here they are getting better, but still nowhere near what Hubble can do),

      No matter how much you spend you cannot overcome the first two limitations, and third is still somewhere in the misty future. To some extent, more ground infrastructure (though we can always use more) is just 'more of the same'. Hubble is unique. (And don't bring up the JWST - it 'sees' in different wavelengths than Hubble.) No amount of money can change the laws of physics.
       
      Having said that last - I just *know* somebody will pipe up with 'but how do we know there is not some undiscovered principle'. How? This is 2006 - not 1806 or even 1906. These things have been intensively studied - and no principle exists to make the atmosphere transparent to UV. None. Not now, not ever. The same goes for extremely faint objects - barring intervention from Harry Potter the atmosphere isn't going to become less turbulent and more transparent.
      • by headkase (533448) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @02:04AM (#16225197)
        ...and no principle exists to make the atmosphere transparent to UV...

        We could start using CFC's [wikipedia.org] again... ;)
      • Blah blah blah, atmosphere this and that. Lets get off of our one track minds and develope other means of solving problems. So, the atmosphere is in your way. Do it the American way and blast the atmosphere out of the picture. We already have blur correction to deal with turbulance. I know I've seen Lasers used to litteraly create a hole in the atmosphere. I must admit I wasn't able to quickly find any articles on lasers used this way, however it may not be some magical Harry Potter crap as much as a more s
      • The thing is, it would probably cost only about a billion dollars to reproduce the Hubble, sans launch costs. I have spoken with people in the telescoope building industry about this and they think that the telescope itself would only be $4-500M, due to new mirror polishing techniques that achieve convergence within days instead of months.

        There are good reasons to do a new, cheap telescope. I think I would rather see a new duplicate telescope (with different instruments) launched every 5 years rather than

    • by mhh5 (176104)
      And why not just build a better Hubble from parts on the ground already and send another one up there? Didn't NASA make spare parts for Hubble like they do for all their other satellites? Does it require the space shuttle to launch a Hubble clone?
  • Back on topic (Score:2, Informative)

    by djuuss (854954)
    On a slightly more serious note:

    Like the article says, its not that big a deal until we know if this malfunction is fixable. From TFA:

    Vision loss Burch is optimistic that the ACS and even the High Resolution Channel itself will still be usable, although he stresses that the outlook could change as engineers obtain new information about the problem. Still, the problem could mean that the HRC will be able to use only half of its normal field of view in future observations, Burch says. "We would have t

    • In other words, stay tuned for next exciting installment of 'Hubble, the incredible cyclops.'

      OK, OK, our first attempt at a radio-controlled robotic orbital space telescope should have been MUCH more reliable.

      "The amazing thing about a dancing bear is not how well it dances, but that it dances at all."
      But yeah, it's a pain it doesn't send us more cool pictures ;)
  • Let's see Dell get them a new battery up there then.
  • by sdo1 (213835) on Wednesday September 27, 2006 @11:24PM (#16224225) Journal
    Hubble is and has been an amazing scientific instrument. While I do love the idea of sending people into space, I feel more and more that the money is far better spent on unmanned missions, including satellites like Hubble. Instead of figuring out how to send humans to Mars (and back to the moon), pour 25% of that budget into Hubble II and Hubble III (or whatever you'd want to call them) and the rest into unmanned probes/missions to Mars. It just feels to me like money well spent. Build two or three identical satellites. Yea, that's expensive, but if one goes south, you figure out why, fix it in the one sitting on the ground (if it's something that can be fixed/improved) and fire it up into orbit.

    The Mars rovers and Hubble have been absolute bargains as far as new knowledge gained. That seems like the right model to follow.

    -S
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by undeaf (974710)
      Trips to the moon and extraatmospheric telescopes are not neccessarily at odds to each other, if we could put a telescope on the moon, that would also be not be inside an atmosphere, and it wouldn't need gyroscopes to stabilise itself.
    • by zensonic (82242)
      And besides the monetary issue of sending people out into space theres the problem with humans not really being built for traveling through space. To put it simply humans will not survive prolonged space trips due to radiation, lack of gravity, being squeezed into a small compartment for years and so forth.

      In my oppinion interstellar travel for humans lives or dies foremost with the success of theoretic physics finding an effecient way of getting from A to B in space.
  • The best bet would be to schedule in a repair stop during one of the space shuttle's remaining 13(?) scheduled space flights to deliver parts to the ISS. Otherwise, as valuable a tool as the hubble is, the cost just isn't worth it since the hubble's days are numbered as is. It just wasn't designed to last too much longer without a complete replacement.
    • by Orange Crush (934731) on Thursday September 28, 2006 @12:52AM (#16224817)
      The best bet would be to schedule in a repair stop during one of the space shuttle's remaining 13(?) scheduled space flights to deliver parts to the ISS.

      I don't think that would be feasible. The shuttle can't just zip around to multiple different orbital rendezvous over the course of a single mission. I haven't been able to find any info, but I'm doubting very much that Hubble and the ISS are even remotely "on the way" to each other. Not to mention that the shuttle will be using much of its payload capacity to build the station and burning some of its limited orbital-manuevering fuel to correct the ISS's orbit. There's probably not enough room or enough in the tanks. (Hubble needs orbit correction too, as well as new gyroscopes in addition to this recent camera failure--no telling what that'll entail.) Even if they're close in orbital rendezvous terms, the shuttle would still probably have to fly a dedicated mission to fix hubble. Not gonna happen.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        NASA has already stated they will consider this October whether or not it is prudent to conduct another Hubble servicing mission. If approved, the mission would take place in 2008.

        ISS and Hubble are mutually exclusive destinations.
        • NASA has already stated they will consider this October whether or not it is prudent to conduct another Hubble servicing mission.

          That is correct. Originally, in the aftermath of Columbia the answer was "far too risky, not a chance." NASA's previous administrator O'Keefe left standing orders that there would be no more shuttle missions that couldn't stop at the ISS . . . which ruled out just about everything that wasn't an ISS construction/resupply mission. Griffin's more open to the idea . . . but I'm

    • Can't do it as they're on different orbital inclinations -- would need two launches to reach them both.
  • Mike broke the Hubble! Mike Broke the Hubble!
  • Hubble Origins Probe (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bhima (46039) <Bhima.Pandava@gT ... m minus caffeine> on Thursday September 28, 2006 @05:13AM (#16225989) Journal
    The Hubble Origins Probe is the cheapest, easiest, and fastest way to replace the Hubble. And it doesn't even require the shuttle.

    http://www.pha.jhu.edu/hop/ [jhu.edu]

    It's not that hard people. Call your senators and ask them why in the hell this isn't already in orbit.
  • I blame to Lucian Alliance
  • NASA says the worst-case scenario is that the ACS could lose half the channel's field of view, so it would take longer to observe its targets.

    This is no where near the worst case scenario [imdb.com]
  • ...it was the Chinese "lasers"!
  • Running with the idea that we should invest elsewhere...why not tinker with the idea of repair robots? That way, whenever the Hubble breaks (which it seems prone to doing), we don't need to send a shuttle up. We either make the robots autonomous (which may be hard since I'm not sure about the diagnostic info Hubble can report), or make it so we can control them from one of our wonderful little command centers. They could either be solar powered, or the crew that installs them could probably fit some sort of

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