Now all they have to do is fix Hubble at 17,000 mph

THE HUBBLE Space Telescope is the greatest success story of the Nasa space programme, but the instrument has been crippled for the past two months by ailing gyroscopes - the fast-spinning machines which keep the telescope stable and pointing in the right direction.

Hubble has six gyroscopes, operating in pairs, and the telescope needs at least three to orientate itself correctly. When a fourth gyroscope failed on 13 November Nasa had to close the telescope down and put it into a safety mode.

The next Shuttle mission to service the Hubble was planned for June 2000 but the problem with the gyroscopes forced Nasa to divide the mission into two flights, one which was due to be launched today and one in the middle of next year.

In addition to replacing all six gyroscopes, the seven-man crew, which includes British-born Michael Foale, will upgrade the telescope's computer. They will also install a new radio transmitter and battery pack, and replace and repair the instrument's outer insulation, which gets damaged by meteorite impacts.

The 10-day mission, which includes four space walks, will present serious technical difficulties, not least of which is capturing the 20-ton telescope as the Shuttle and the Hubble hurtle in tandem through space at a speed of 17,000 mph.

Once the Hubble has been secured and brought into the Shuttle repair bay, pairs of astronauts will go outside during an "extra-vehicular activity" (EVA) to replace or repair the telescope's hardware.

"One of the big issues for all the EVAs is preventing debris from getting inside the telescope," said Claude Nicollier, a French astronaut and mission specialist, who is part of the European Space Agency's contribution to the mission.

"At various points the guts of the telescope will be exposed to the outside. We are all aware of the potential damage and presence of debris and we don't want any of the debris to get inside."

The complex repair job will take place while orbiting around 370 miles above Earth - around twice the altitude of normal space walks. It will present an impressive backdrop to the complicated manoeuvres which the astronaunts are expected to make during each six-hour space walk.

The final walk will involve repairing the telescope's out protective layer, said Nicollier. "It will be like hanging wallpaper. We'll start at the top and gradually unroll the insulation."

2001 AND BEYOND

2001

Second part of the third servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope will focus on installing the Advanced Camera for Surveys, a device for looking deep into space.

Two Mars missions are launched: Mars Surveyor Orbiter and Mars Surveyor Lander. The orbiter will begin the global mapping of Mars.

2002

Mars Surveyor Lander sends out a rover vehicle, called the "Marie Curie" to test for signs of life and assess the feasibility of sending a manned mission of Mars.

2003

Fourth servicing mission to Hubble. An advanced wide-field camera will enable the Hubble to view stars in an enormous range of wavelengths.

2010

The Hubble comes to the end of its scheduled life. Nasa may send it into orbit permanently, or it may be brought back to Earth to become a museum exhibit.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable