Heartbreaking: Hubble Space Telescope has a second shutdown in a row

In a devastating blow to the international space station, NASA suspended its Hubble Space Telescope operations for the second time in three days Monday following a major problem with the telescope.

NASA will now need to figure out how best to save the Hubble telescope, the $3.4 billion orbital observatory which has been fixing itself and reconnecting with Earth for more than seven years. If, however, Hubble continues to malfunction, the museum’s satellite viewing windows will soon be filled with hundreds of perfectly framed, lifeless photos.

On Friday, NASA acknowledged that the telescope was off line because of a malfunction. On Monday, a spokeswoman said a bad warning sensor had flooded a network of components on the telescope with heat.

It marks the second such outage of the telescope in as many days, coming on the heels of a similar problem last Tuesday that temporarily grounded the Hubble and cost NASA an estimated $3 million in flight costs.

This latest blackout came on a day when other orbiting observatories were doing their best to capture a black dot on the Milky Way galaxy, clearly visible only to the very sharp eyed.

But luckily for the space station crew, that fact is lost on the novice eye, whose only feeling is a bit of unease, said a spokesman for NASA Space Flight Support.

The telescope didn’t mess around. On Monday, it transmitted 12 images in a minute, spurring worries that its power supply, which has been fatally bypassed, is about to burn out.

Later, the body of the camera kept switching on and off.

This seems to be a bad month for Hubble. NASA is hoping that the remaining 135 days on its robotic operating contract with Europe’s space agency will be fun.

“Those who want to see more black dots in the sky might stay up past their bedtime,” a spokesman said.

In any case, on Wednesday, astronauts aboard the station will install a new cargo module and a $250 million astrophysics laboratory that they completed in time for the space flyby. The Hubble space probe launched in 1990.

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