Thursday, May 16, 2013

Failure on Kepler spacecraft

There has been a failure on the Kepler spacecraft.

Kepler was specifically designed to look for planets in orbit around other stars (stars other than our sun) and to date has been very successful. In order to find planets, the spacecraft must be able to precisely position itself in space. There are four reaction wheels, one stopped working last year, and there has been a problem with a second one recently. With only two working reaction wheels, precise positioning is probably impossible.

If this problem can't be corrected, Kepler cannot continue to look for planets (though it wont remove the planets already found).

NASA has not given up and there are plans to attempt a repair from the ground. Kepler is far enough from the earth that a repair mission (as has been done for the Hubble Space Telescope) is not practical. It remains to be seen if these ground repairs will work.


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