Nasa’s planet hunter back in ‘stable state’

After a weekend of uncertainty for the Kepler spacecraft, Nasa let out a sigh of relief yesterday, saying “the spacecraft reached a stable state with the communication antenna pointed toward Earth.”

NASA posted a statement from mission manager Charlie Sobeck yesterday, saying the “mission has cancelled the spacecraft emergency, returning the Deep Space Network ground communications to normal scheduling.”

The spacecraft — responsible for detecting nearly 5,000 planets outside our solar system — slipped into emergency mode some time last week. 

The last scheduled contact with the spacecraft which is nearly 120 million kilometres away, was April 4; everything seemed normal then.

Ground controllers discovered the problem last week, right before they were going to point Kepler toward the centre of the Milky Way as part of a new kind of planetary survey.

This is the first malfunction for the space telescope, according to Sobeck. 

Currently, Nasa is pursuing an investigation into what caused the event, “with a priority on returning the spacecraft to science operations.”

Launched in 2009, the craft completed its primary mission in 2012, but had been on an extended mission dubbed K2 until the current emergency.


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