Where life might live beyond Earth
May 15th, 2013
05:12 PM ET

Planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft in trouble

By Matt Smith, CNN

The future of NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space observatory was in question Wednesday after a part that helps aim the spacecraft stopped working, the U.S. space agency said.

Controllers found Tuesday that Kepler had gone into a "safe mode" and one of the reaction wheels needed to orient the spacecraft would not spin, Associate NASA Administrator John Grunsfeld told reporters. NASA engineers are trying to figure out whether they can get the balky part back into service or whether they can resume control by another method, Grunsfeld said.

"We're not ready to call the mission over," he said. But at roughly 40 million miles from Earth, "Kepler is not in a place where I can go up and rescue it."

The Kepler mission has identified 132 planets beyond our solar system since its launch in 2009, leading scientists to believe that most stars in our galaxy have planets circling them. It has gone into a "safe mode" with its solar panels facing back at the sun, giving controllers intermittent communication with the craft as it spins.

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Filed under: In Space • Kepler
Ancient water found in Canadian mine
Gas bubbles out of the floor of a deep mine in Canada, containing ingredients that could sustain life.
May 15th, 2013
01:00 PM ET

Ancient water found in Canadian mine

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

You wouldn't want to shower in it, but researchers have discovered pockets of water in a deep reservoir in Canada that may be up to 2.64 billion years old.

Researchers extracted the fluid from ancient rocks in a mine 1.5 miles underground in the area of Timmins, Ontario. In other mines, water has been found to support life, but scientists are still working to determine if there is life in this particular location. They say this is the oldest water found in such an environment.

We spoke with Chris Ballentine, professor of geochemistry at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, and senior author on this study, which published in the journal Nature. Here is an edited version of our email Q&A:

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Filed under: On Earth

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