After Scare, Kepler Spacecraft Back in Business

More planet-hunting awaits
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 11, 2016 2:25 PM CDT
After Scare, Kepler Spacecraft Back in Business
An artist's concept provided by NASA shows the Keplar Spacecraft moving through space.   (Uncredited)

To astronomers' relief, NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft has won another reprieve. The spacecraft—responsible for detecting thousands of planets beyond our solar system—slipped into emergency mode last week nearly 75 million miles from Earth, reports the AP. Ground controllers managed to stabilize the probe Sunday, and NASA announced the good news Monday. Engineers still don't know what went wrong and will study incoming data for clues. They also want to be certain the spacecraft is healthy enough to resume observations. The trouble occurred right before Kepler was to be pointed toward the center of the Milky Way for a new kind of planet-searching campaign.

This isn't the first time the 7-year-old Kepler has cheated death. Controllers managed to keep the spacecraft working a few years ago, despite repeated breakdowns. But Kepler had never suffered an emergency like this before last week. Ground observatories, meanwhile, will proceed with the hunt for planets orbiting far from their suns or even wandering between stars. Kepler's role in the project will end July 1, so there is plenty of time to get on board. (More Kepler telescope stories.)

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