NASA scientists are scrambling to fix the planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft that is currently 75 million miles away from the Earth. They haven’t yet figured out what caused the probe to enter the emergency mode. Last Thursday, the US space agency found that the Kepler spacecraft had unexpectedly kicked into emergency mode. Mission manager Charlie Sobeck said it was operational the last time contact was made on April 4. So, whatever caused the problem happened between April 4 and 7.
It takes 13 minutes to send to and receive signals from Kepler
Charlie Sobeck said in a statement that the spacecraft was nearly 75 million miles away from our planet, and the space telescope orbits the sun rather than Earth. It makes communication very slow. Even at the speed of light, it takes about 13 minutes for a signal to travel from the mission control to Kepler and back again. Sobeck said the emergency mode was very “fuel intensive,” and it was their top priority to recover the probe.
NASA launched Kepler in 2009 to find Earth-like planets in outer space. The probe completed its mission in 2012 by detecting 1,041 confirmed exoplanets. It spotted Earth-like planets by noting the brightness dips the planets cause when they cross their host stars’ faces. Since the mission was so successful, NASA kept the $600 million space telescope on duty to study supernovae, young stars, and other objects.
NASA declared K2 a smashing success last month
Last year, NASA reported that the telescope had discovered the Earth’s closest twin, named Kepler 452b, just 1,400 light years away. NASA declared last month that the spacecraft’s extended mission K2 was a “smashing success.” Since its launch Kepler had been running “with scarcely a whiff of trouble.” The space telescope had once run into trouble in May 2013 when one of its four orientation-maintaining reaction wheels failed. At the time, mission managers were able to stabilize it in space using other reaction wheels and sunlight pressure.