CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida The Hubble Space Telescope is back in business after a month of problems, but preparing spare equipment to keep the orbital observatory running will force NASA to delay its final servicing mission beyond February, officials said on Thursday
The agency released an image taken by the telescope's Wide Field Planetary Camera showing a pair of gravitationally locked galaxies, located more than 400 million light years away in the constellation Cetus.
The picture was the first taken by Hubble since a computer problem shut down science operations in September.
During the attempt to switch over to a backup system earlier this month, a problem with another computer again shut down the observatory.
But engineers were finally able to sort out the glitches this week, allowing astronomers to train Hubble's eye on the pair of galaxies known as Arp 147, which remain gravitationally interacting long after a suspected collision between the two.
Hubble's problems prompted NASA to delay the October launch of space shuttle Atlantis and seven astronauts on a final house call to upgrade Hubble.
The mission had been rescheduled for February, but NASA said Thursday replacement equipment won't be ready in time to make that date.
Because it orbits outside the Earth's atmosphere, Hubble's cameras can take extremely sharp images.
NASA at one point was planning to abandon the telescope, which is hugely popular among astronomers. But the U.S. space agency relented after a public outcry.
In 2013, the James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled to replace Hubble.
(Reporting by Irene Klotz; editing by Tom Brown)