Hubble Telescope Shut Down for Fourth Day as Computer From 1980s Hit With Problems

The Hubble Space Telescope entered its fourth day of inoperation Wednesday after the machinery was hit with computer problems, NASA announced. The technological issues have put all astronomical viewing at a standstill and left the observatory idle.

The computer in question dates back to the 1980s and is responsible for controlling science instruments within the telescope. It shut down Sunday, with a damaged memory designated as a possible cause, the Associated Press reported.

Flight controllers with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland attempted to reboot the computer on Monday, but they were unsuccessful. They are now in the process of transitioning to a backup memory unit, and if the switch is successful, they will then give the telescope a test day before turning the science instruments back on and proceeding with astronomical viewing.

Until then the telescope's cameras and other equipment will remain in safe mode.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

NASA Control Center
Jennifer Wiseman, Senior Scientist for Hubble Space, speaks during an interview at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., April 2, 2015. Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Launched in 1990, Hubble is showing more and more signs of aging, despite a series of repairs and updates by spacewalking astronauts during NASA's shuttle era. The idled computer was installed during the fifth and final service call in 2009.

NASA plans to launch Hubble's successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, in November. This observatory will be too far from Earth—1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) away in a solar orbit—for astronaut tune-ups. The launch from French Guiana using Europe's Ariane rocket is years behind schedule; the latest delay of two weeks is the result of rocket processing and scheduling issues.

Scientists hope to have an overlap in orbit between Hubble and the considerably more advanced and powerful Webb.

Goddard Center
In this handout provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), VP of Research and Development of Intuitive Machines, Tim Crain, second from right, speaks with NASA Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, second from left, about their lunar lander, May 31, 2019, at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Aubrey Gemignani/NASA/Getty Images