The Kepler Space Telescope Is Broken Again

Artist’s concept of the Kepler Space Telescope, via NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech
Artist’s concept of the Kepler Space Telescope, via NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

NASA’S Kepler Space telescope might have gotten a new lease on life in 2014 when scientists figured out how to repurpose the damaged telescope, but it now appears that it’s in trouble once again.

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According to the space agency, the spacecraft’s mission operations engineers discovered on Thursday that Kepler was in Emergency Mode. The new priorities for the ground team is to regain control of the spacecraft, which has been working on NASA’s K2 mission. Their next part of their mission had been to orient the telescope towards the center of the Milky Way.

Emergency Mode is the state in which the spacecraft is in it’s “lowest operational mode”, but which is also “fuel intensive.” How this will impact the telescope’s ongoing mission is unclear.

This isn’t the first or even second time the spacecraft has suffered a serious setback. Kepler is currently located almost 75 million miles away from Earth, which means that any signal takes 13 minutes to travel out and back.

The last regular contact with the spacecraft found that it was in good shape, on April 4th.

[NASA via Engadget]

Andrew Liptak is the former Weekend editor of io9/Gizmodo. He is the co-editor of War Stories: New Military Science Fiction and hails from Vermont.

DISCUSSION

I’m glad that they’ve been able to keep Kepler going this long, but it seems like space telescopes break down a lot. I mean I recall Hubble having a lot of trouble soon after it was initially launched, although it’s been an overall resounding success.

Is it because it’s just that difficult to make telescopes work in space or is it because we haven’t ironed out all the engineering challenges yet?