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Science PopWrapped | Science

NASA: Kepler Spacecraft Operating In Emergency Mode

Faeriesun | PopWrapped Author

Faeriesun

04/13/2016 6:26 am
PopWrapped | Science
NASA: Kepler Spacecraft Operating In Emergency Mode | Kepler
Media Courtesy of Next Level Tech

75 million miles above the Earth the Kepler spacecraft has begun operating in Emergency Mode (EM).  EM is "the lowest operational mode and is fuel intensive."

NASA reports that engineers discovered that the craft was in EM  during the scheduled contact on April 7.  It is believed that Kepler entered EM about 36 hours prior to their discover.  During the communication scheduled on April 4 the Kepler was deemed "in good health and operating as expected".  A spacecraft emergency has been declared on the mission.  This opens up priority access for communication ground-based communications.

Kepler was launched in March 2009 and its mission sounds like the intro to a sci-fi movie:  to explore our section of the Milky Way galaxy for for Earth-sized planets located within or near to the "habitable zone" and to ascertain how many of our galaxy's stars might have said planets.  So far, Kepler has discovered 1,041 confirmed exoplanets.  One of the more interesting discoveries made by Kepler occurred in July 2015.  Data confirmed an Earth-sized planet in that orbits a sun-like star.  Kepler-452b has been described by NASA as "Earth's bigger, older cousin".  After the initial mission was completed in 2012 and the craft then began its new and current mission, K2.   The K2 mission continues the work of the original mission and also introduces opportunities for researching other areas such as stars and other deep space objects.  Kepler will be redirected to face the center of the Milky Way galaxy where it will use Gravitational Microlensing to search for signs of gravity.  The goal is to discover any exoplanets  that are wandering around between the stars in largely uncharted areas.

The current goal is to get Kepler back up and running and out of EM.  With the craft being so far away it takes about 13 minutes for a signal to travel there and back.  Suffice to say that even at the speed of light, communication is slow.  NASA says they will continue to post updates on the mission website as they become available.

 

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