The Hubble is broken, and the gov’t shutdown means no one’s fixing it.

Nature shows us how politics is blinding science:

Hubble’s mission operations are based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, where most employees are on involuntary leave during the shutdown. A few people who operate spacecraft that are actively flying, including Hubble, have been allowed to keep working.

But fixing the telescope, which is almost 30 years old, will almost certainly require additional government employees who are forbidden to work during the shutdown. NASA has formed an investigative team, composed primarily of contractors and experts from its industry partners, to examine the technical troubles.

The instrument that broke is Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, one of its scientific workhorses. The telescope has one other camera and two spectrographs that remain operational and will keep collecting data, NASA said in an 8 January announcement.

Hubble launched in 1990 and has been upgraded and updated five times by visiting astronauts, the last time in 2009. The Wide Field Camera 3 was installed during that final servicing mission. It has a back-up set of electronics that can be used if something has gone permanently wrong with the main set — but engineers won’t know if that is the case until they are allowed to work on the instrument.