Kepler Spacecraft Resumes Its Planet-Hunting Mission After Being Rescued From Emergency Mode

Posted: Apr 25 2016, 4:10am CDT | by , Updated: Apr 25 2016, 10:45pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Kepler Spacecraft Resumes its Planet-Hunting Mission After Being Rescued from Emergency Mode
Credit: NASA

NASA's Kepler spacecraft has recovered and is back on the job. The spacecraft will search for exoplanets as a part of its mission K2.

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft is back on the job. The spacecraft has managed to overcome the potential mission-ending glitch and has resumed its hunt for exoplanets on Tuesday.

A couple of weeks ago, planet-hunting spacecraft was in a real trouble when it somehow switched into emergency mode. Emergency mode is the lowest operation mode in a spacecraft that burns a lot more fuel than usual. The Kepler mission team worked hard to get the things back to normal and to sort out this scary problem which has put the entire mission in jeopardy. 

But restoring this problem was a head scratcher for the scientists since the spacecraft is positioned 75 million miles away from the Earth and maintaining contact with spacecraft was not easy at all. However, on April 11, NASA announced that the spacecraft is stable and no longer in a state of emergency. 

“The team began the process of returning the spacecraft to science late on Tuesday. The process involved a succession of steps over the course of the next two days. The pointing tables and science targets – instructions that tell the spacecraft where to look at and at what –were loaded and confirmed, onboard logs and counters were reset and a new command sequence was created, tested and uploaded to account for late start of the campaign. The spacecraft is ready for science operations, officially starting K2’s new gravitational microlensing campaign, known as Campaign 9 or C9.” NASA author wrote in the blog.

Kepler spacecraft was originally launched in 2009 and its goal was to look for the planets outside of our solar system and to determine whether they are habitable or support life on their atmosphere. The spacecraft achieved its primary goal in 2012 as it went on to find more than 5,000 exoplanets with 1,000 of those being confirmed by researchers.

Two years ago, Kepler was assigned another task known as K2. Under this mission, the spacecraft is going to search for planets wandering between stars, Earth-like planets in the habitable zones of the stars and alien worlds at the edge of their solar systems.

Kepler has experienced breakdowns in the past too. In 2013, one of its four orientation-maintaining reactions wheels failed which has put an end to its primary mission. Scientists restored that problem by using solar energy which allowed the spacecraft to maintain its direction.


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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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