Hubble Telescope Communication Breaks Down, Plots Thickens

The complicated Hubble repair and upgrade mission scheduled for October 14th just got even more complicated: Last Saturday, the Hubble's command and data-handling system broke down, rendering it unable to capture and transmit images to Earth. And while Nasa doesn't know what the heck has happened—I'm thinking a bunch of aliens angry with this galactic Peeping Tom—they are actually happy this has occurred now, according to Nasa's science chief Ed Weiler:

Think about if this failure had occurred two weeks after the servicing mission, we had just put two brand new instruments in and thought we extended the lifetime for five, 10 years and this thing failed after the last shuttle mission to Hubble. So in some sense, if this had to happen, it couldn't have happened at a better time.

Now, the astronauts will have to add another task to their long list—replace the command and data relay modules with new ones—which will delay the mission until the beginning of next year. Until then, however, scientists will be able to communicate and get images from Hubble using the backup systems, which are being turned on as I write these lines. This is a delicate procedure because these systems haven't been turned on since the late 1980s, before Hubble was launched. [AP]