In an alarming bit of space news, NASA revealed that their prized Kepler spacecraft has been in emergency mode for the past several days and they are now frantically trying to resuscitate it. The issue was first discovered by NASA ground controllers on Thursday April 7th. NASA had decided to adjust the Kepler spacecraft to point towards the center of the Milky Way, but when ground control issued the command, the Kepler was unresponsive.
Launched nearly seven years ago back in 2009, the Kepler spacecraft specializes in locating new planets in other solar systems. Over the past seven years, the Kepler has located over 5,000 new planets in other solar systems as well as stray planets. With nearly 75 million miles separating Earth from the Kepler spacecraft, repairs and analysis can prove to be quite time consuming.
"Even at the speed of light, it takes 13 minutes for a signal to travel to the spacecraft and back,"
Mission manager Charlie Sobeck said in a weekend web update from NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.
The Kepler cost NASA roughly $550 million to produce, and losing the spacecraft would be an immense loss for NASA and planetary research alike.
This isn’t the first instance of the Kepler experiencing trouble in cosmos, as the spacecraft lost one of its balancing wheels back in 2012. The Kepler cost NASA roughly $550 million to produce, and losing the spacecraft would be an immense loss for NASA and planetary research alike.
If NASA is able to repair the Kepler, it will begin a new mission to find even more small planets outside of our solar system. Formally dubbed Campaign 9, this new mission will actually be a collaboration between the Kepler spacecraft and ground based astronomers from five different continents. Hopefully NASA can recover the Kepler and make use its services for years to come.