Mere days after the Hubble Space Telescope entered safe mode following a component failure, NASA said its Chandra X-ray Observatory entered safe mode on Wednesday. The space agency said on Friday that an investigation into the incident is currently underway, though it added data analysis indicated the safe mode transition to be “normal behaviour.”
Chandra has been precision X-raying our universe since its launch in 1999 and is one of four observatories of NASA’s Great Observatory program, which includes the Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, and Spitzer Space Telescope. The observatory spies on objects that include black holes, galaxies, supernovas, high-temperature gases, and quasars throughout the x-ray portion of the electromagnetic spectrum to help us better understand the universe.
The incredible spacecraft boasts what NASA describes as “the largest, most precisely shaped and aligned, and smoothest mirrors ever constructed,” and it is currently among the most powerful telescopes in the world.
Chandra entered a safe configuration early Wednesday in order to protect itself during the issue, which NASA said may have involved a gyroscope. Such was the case last week with the beloved Hubble Space Telescope, which went into safe mode after another of its six gyroscopes failed.
“Analysis of available data indicates the transition to safe mode was normal behaviour for such an event,” NASA said. “All systems functioned as expected and the scientific instruments are safe.”
The 19-year-old Chandra has far outlived its five-year original design lifetime. After the issue is resolved, Chandra’s mission is expected to continue “for many years to come,” the space agency said.
Grant Tremblay, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted Friday that the issue with Chandra had been characterised and that there was a “clear pathway to recovery.” He added that Chandra is safe and expected to return to its mission soon.
Chandra is safe, the issue is now characterized, we have a clear pathway to recovery, and we're working on it now. Chandra will return to its world-class science program soon. https://t.co/KU6WnLkPxI
— Grant Tremblay (@astrogrant) October 12, 2018
A representative for the Chandra X-ray Center told Gizmodo via email that it is hoping to have a status update on the observatory by Monday.