Hubble Space Telescope instruments in 'safe mode' after glitch, stalling science

The Hubble Space Telescope, as seen by astronauts on its final servicing mission in 2009.
Unexpectedly, the iconic Hubble Space Telescope has shut its camera eye again.

Hubble team members announced via Twitter Monday that the science instruments of the iconic telescope were placed in a protective safe mode Monday (Oct. 25, after experiencing problems with internal spacecraft communications synchronization," Monday's tweet stated.

"Science observations were temporarily suspended while the team investigates this issue. They added that the instruments were in good health.

Related: Here are the best Hubble Space Telescope photos of all time

Hubble, a NASA-ESA joint mission, was launched into Earth orbit in April 1990. It has shown some signs of its old age. After a glitch with the main payload computer, the observatory was offline for over a month in summer 2017. After switching to backup hardware, the team was able to get Hubble back online in July.

This issue is not as serious as it seems, since it only affects Hubble's science instruments, and not the entire observatory. We'll need to wait to hear more about the issue.

Hubble's long, rich history is filled with challenges and hurdles. For example, the observatory was launched with a defective primary mirror. This problem was fixed by spacewalker astronauts in December 1993.

Four additional servicing missions were launched by astronauts to upgrade Hubble. The last one was in 2009. This attention is key to the scope's ability to remain productive over time.

NASA is preparing to launch the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope, which it calls Hubble's successor. Webb is designed to see the sky in infrared light and will launch from an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket Dec. 18.

Webb will travel to the Earth-sun Lagrange Point 2 (a spot that is gravitationally stable at 930,000 miles (1,000,000 kilometers) distance from our planet). It was not intended for astronaut servicing.