Science 3 min read

Chandra X-Ray Observatory Malfunction Adds to NASA Woes

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sripfoto /

The Chandra X-Ray Observatory has also gone into safe mode just a few days after the Hubble Space Telescope.

Late last week, NASA released a statement announcing that another one of its space telescopes, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, had recently gone into safe mode.

“At approximately 9:55 a.m. EDT on Oct. 10, 2018, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory entered safe mode, in which the observatory is put into a safe configuration, critical hardware is swapped to backup units, the spacecraft points so that the solar panels get maximum sunlight, and the mirrors point away from the Sun,” NASA wrote.

NASA is still investigating what caused the safe mode transition. However, it hinted that the problem might also involve a gyroscope, the same issue that the Hubble telescope encountered.

“Analysis of available data indicates the transition to safe mode was normal behavior for such an event. All systems functioned as expected and the scientific instruments are safe. The cause of the safe mode transition (possibly involving a gyroscope) is under investigation, and we will post more information when it becomes available,” the space agency further said.

Read More: Hubble Telescope in “Safe Mode” After Gyroscope Malfunction

Both the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope are part of NASA’s “Great Observatories” series. This is a NASA program that sent space telescopes into orbit to give scientists a complete picture of celestial objects across many different wavelengths.

The Hubble Space Telescope was the first one to be launched in 1990. The Compton Gamma Ray Observatory then followed in 1991 and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory afterward in 1999. In 2003, the agency launched the Spitzer Space Telescope as the final member of the series.

Unfortunately, the Compton failed and was destroyed. With the 28-year old Hubble and 19-year old Chandra asleep, scientists have no other choice but to rely on the Spitzer.

People are now left wondering what’s next for NASA after this series of woes involving its valuable space instruments.

Before the issues with the Hubble and the Chandra telescopes, the U.S. space agency’s Opportunity Mars rover went into sleep mode after getting stuck in the Red Planet’s dust storm. Furthermore, its planet-hunting Kepler telescope is now also at the end of its life together with the Dawn spacecraft.

The space agency has not given further details about the problems it’s facing now but said that NASA engineers are working double time to fix both the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory at the soonest possible time.

With NASA equipment failing left and right, do you think it is a sign of the need for increased investment from the private space sector?

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Chelle Fuertes

Chelle is the Product Management Lead at INK. She's an experienced SEO professional as well as UX researcher and designer. She enjoys traveling and spending time anywhere near the sea with her family and friends.

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