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I am now in the third week of my annual February birthday fund-raising drive. The first two weeks were good, but not record-setting.


There are still two weeks left in this campaign however. If you have been a regular reader and a fan of my work and have not yet donated or subscribed, please consider doing so. I take no ads, I keep the website clean from pop-ups and annoying demands (most of the time). Thus, I depend entirely on my readers to support me. Though this means I am sacrificing some income, it also means that I remain entirely independent from outside pressure. By depending solely on donations and subscriptions from my readers, no one can threaten me with censorship. You don't like what I write, you can simply go elsewhere.


You can support me either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are five ways of doing so:


1. Zelle: This is the only internet method that charges no fees. All you have to do is use the Zelle link at your internet bank and give my name and email address (zimmerman at nasw dot org). What you donate is what I get.


2. Patreon: Go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation.

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5. Donate by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman and mailed to
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Hubble in safe mode due to gyroscope problem

One of the three working gyroscopes (three have already failed0 on the Hubble Space Telescope experienced repeated problems in mid-November, and has now put the telescope in safe mode while engineers trouble-shoot the problem.

Hubble first went into safe mode Nov. 19. Although the operations team successfully recovered the spacecraft to resume observations the following day, the unstable gyro caused the observatory to suspend science operations once again Nov. 21. Following a successful recovery, Hubble entered safe mode again Nov. 23.

The team is now running tests to characterize the issue and develop solutions. If necessary, the spacecraft can be re-configured to operate with only one gyro. The spacecraft had six new gyros installed during the fifth and final space shuttle servicing mission in 2009. To date, three of those gyros remain operational, including the gyro currently experiencing fluctuations. Hubble uses three gyros to maximize efficiency, but could continue to make science observations with only one gyro if required.

The long term plan when the telescope only has two working gyros, assuming no improvised maintenance mission is flown to Hubble to give it new gyroscopes, is to work with only one (treating the second as a back-up) in order to extend the telescope’s life as long as possible.

And though it is true that Hubble could continue to do science with only one gyro, images from that point will likely not be as sharp, and thus will end more than three decades of imagery that changed our perception of the universe.

The Chinese 2-meter Xuntian optical space telescope, now scheduled for launch in 2025, will likely then replace Hubble as the world’s top optical telescope. American astronomers better start learning Chinese, assuming China even allows them access. They will not have a right to complain, however, as it was their decision to not build a Hubble replacement, in their 2000, 2010, and 2020 decadal reports.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Matt in AZ

    2025-2026 sounds like a good target for a private venture to launch a sizeable optical telescope on a Starship. Any of the current slew Earth-observing companies should have what it takes to develop a practical one without the weight and servicing constraints of the 1980s-era Hubble.

    Or even SpaceX itself… Just imagine the science community having to rely on Elon Musk, with the supremely info-possessive China being the only other available option.

  • Edward

    Matt in AZ,
    Astronomers think so, too.

    I suspect that the other goals that SpaceX has are higher in priority. Besides, SpaceX needs to leave some projects for other companies and universities. I would hate to have SpaceX replace the government as its own monopoly – monopsony. Then all we would get is what SpaceX wants, not what the rest of We the People want.

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