Mayday! NASA's Kepler Telescope Malfunctions 75 Million Miles From Earth

Apr 11, 2016 04:30 AM EDT

Mayday, mayday! We have trouble in space. NASA's exoplanet hunter, Kepler, which is stationed 75 million miles away from home, malfunctions. In a routine scheduled contact, the Kepler entered into Emergency Mode, alarming NASA's engineers.

On a scheduled routine contact with Kepler last April 7, NASA said their mission operations engineers found out that the spacecraft cum telescope was in Emergency Mode (EM).

The Kepler Telescope is NASA's Exoplanet hunter. According to Charlie Sobeck, Kepler and K2 Mission Manager, "Kepler completed its prime mission in 2012, detecting nearly 5,000 exoplanets, of which, more than 1,000 have been confirmed."

For NASA, Kepler's malfunction is alarming not only because the system is in its lowest functioning level during EM, but also because Kepler uses more fuel during this time.

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Launched in 2009, Kepler is positioned 75 million miles away from Earth. The distance is making the communication with Earth-based agency Deep Space Network slow and difficult. In the same press release by NASA, they said that it takes 13 minutes to send a message to Kepler and back.

It is not the first the Kepler Telescope malfunction. But The Christian Science Monitor is asking, can it be saved this time?

According to a report from RT, the recent repositioning of Kepler might have caused it to malfunction. The report says that the problem happened when NASA engineers tried to flip Kepler to face it's travel direction.

If ever we lose Kepler, how would it affect NASA's space exploration projects? Well let's just put it this way, we might lose a very important tool in discovering whether or not there really is any kind of life forms outside Earth. Kepler is our best hope in space exploration with its 95-megapixel camera.

Currently, Kepler is engaged in mission K2, which is tasked to "survey millions of stars toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy in search of distant stars' planetary outposts and exoplanets wandering between the stars."

NASA has already given priority to Deep Space Network and instructed engineers to prioritize the recovery of Kepler. It might be a 75 million mile problem but it is something which should be addressed as soon as possible.

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