Hubble goes blind, for now.ASA's flagship observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the first large optical orbiting observatory. Built from 1978 to 1990 at a cost of $1.5 billion, the HST (named for astronomer E. P. Hubble) was expected to provide the clearest view yet obtained of the universe. , has shut down for what astronomers hope will be just a short intermission. However, delays in scheduling a repair mission combined with a looming Y2K problem Y2K problem or Y2K bug: see Year 2000 problem.
(Year 2000 problem) The inability of older hardware and software to recognize the century change in a date. , could turn a brief break into a lengthy interlude.
Since January, Hubble has operated with only three of its original six gyroscopes active, the minimum to accurately point the observatory. That precarious situation prompted NASA NASA: see National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
in full National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Independent U.S. last March to propose a repair mission scheduled for October. Several delays, due to wiring problems on the space shuttle space shuttle, reusable U.S. space vehicle. Developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), it consists of a winged orbiter, two solid-rocket boosters, and an external tank. , have now forced the 9-day mission to be rescheduled for Dec. 9. On Nov. 13, however, a fourth gyroscope gyroscope (jī`rəskōp'), symmetrical mass, usually a wheel, mounted so that it can spin about an axis in any direction. When spinning, the gyroscope has special properties. failed, leaving the telescope unable to make observations.
To avoid any Y2K See Y2K problem and Y2K compliant.
Y2K - Year 2000 computer glitches, NASA won't fly the mission this year if electrical problems or bad weather postpones liftoff past Dec. 18, says Denny Holt, manager for the repair mission at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The team plans to rely on the same flight software that guided the Hubble servicing mission in 1997 (SN: 11/6/99, p. 294). Although ongoing tests of the software haven't found any showstoppers so far, it has not yet been certified as Y2K compliant, Holt notes.
If the software needs only minor adjustments to make it Y2K compatible, the mission could fly as early as Jan. 13, he adds. But if the software has to be replaced, the launch could be delayed by an additional 4 months, which would waste more than $80 million.