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
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Winged Wolf

    Even if we found a habitable planet with lifeforms and a way of living there, it would not be a good idea. We as humans can't take care of the one we have or even control the birth to death ratio. not only that we kill everything we touch as humans. Humans are a plague. Eventually we will destroy another planet and continue with old habits again.

    May 23, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
  2. david campbell100

    up to I looked at the bank draft four $9200, I didn't believe that my cousin realie bringing home money part-time on-line.. there uncle has been doing this for less than 7 months and by now repayed the dept on there place and bourt a great Ford Mustang. read more at,............ Fℴx85.ℂℴm

    May 21, 2013 at 3:44 am |
  3. Bill

    Why isn't the headline for this article "Planet hunting mission exceeds design life by years....is massively successful!" The friggin reporter just had to spin this as "spacecraft in trouble," right? Friggin reporters just kill me....

    May 20, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • BobNabq

      Quote : "Planet hunting mission exceeds design life by years..."
      It was only launched in 2009, as stated in the article. That's four years ago !

      May 26, 2013 at 3:22 am |
  4. kobe jennings

    buck rodger shutup you have no friends.

    May 20, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  5. kobe jennings

    homer10 shut-up dude no you didn't.

    May 20, 2013 at 9:48 am |
  6. w l jones

    What a wonderful feeling after looking down on two barron planets out of the darkness a green one appears out of nowhere with trees everywhere make one feel close to home.

    May 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
  7. Homer10

    Bummer. I actually had a chance to work on the Kepler team a long time ago. I know a bunch about how the mission worked. At the time, they were talking about being very happy if Kepler found 15 planets. The current count is 132 confirmed. However there are thousands of other unconfirmed indications, that have yet to be confirmed. If Kepler dies, it will have gone past all expectations by 2 orders of magnitude already in it's shortened mission. I would say it has been a glorious success.

    May 19, 2013 at 2:09 am |
    • kobe jennings

      your not about that life, none of you are.

      May 20, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  8. julia brown110

    Elise. even though Allen`s comment is astonishing, on saturday I got a gorgeous Lancia after having earned $7456 this-past/month and-also, ten-k this past month. it's actualy the most-financialy rewarding I've ever had. I began this 7-months ago and pretty much immediately made myself more than $81 per-hour. I use details from here,........... FOX. ℂOℳ

    May 18, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
  9. kobe jennings

    none of you guys know what your talking about.

    May 17, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • kobe jennings

      Buck Rogers wanna have a spelling bee with me?

      May 17, 2013 at 10:07 am |
      • Buck Rogers

        Sure... The material NASA used back in the day for their 'heat shields' in order to protect astros from vaporizing as do meteors during a hypersonic 8km/sec reentry was officially called 'special plastic'.... Did is spell that right??

        May 17, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
  10. kobe jennings

    i have been out of the universe before. i bet none of you have.

    May 17, 2013 at 10:00 am |
  11. kobe jennings

    you guys have no life.

    May 17, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  12. Buck Rogers

    No worries guys, NASA's still 'eyeing' mega earths out there left and right with terrestrial scopes and photo shop. They will find ET.... eventually.....

    http://www.fountainsofthegreatdeep.com/Alien.htm

    May 17, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  13. Vic

    That is the kind of thing that makes manned space travel dangerous & unreasonable, e.g. Mars! If something like that goes wrong at such a long distance, it is over!

    May 16, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
    • JusDav

      no, if it was manned space craft, ""man" would just slip on his/her magnetic boots, walk over to the failed/errant part and fix it, no? just saying. the dude said "it is 40 million miles away, I cannot go fix it", but if it were manned, it would not be far away.

      we need to get off this rock before we destroy it. maybe the survivors will do better on the next planet. Or the next, or the next.
      if we do not get off this rock before destruction occurs, we will not be able to "be a plague" on the universe...hehe

      cheers
      JusDav

      May 17, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • Ed

      Please note that this spacecraft finished it's primary mission (and passed it's life expectancy) in 2009. The science we have obtained from SWIFT since then has been gravy. Just like Spirit and Opportunity, Voyager, and on and on. NASA makes the most reliable spacecraft in the world.

      May 18, 2013 at 7:54 am |
      • Homer10

        The Kepler team was originally expecting to find only 15 planets. The current total count is way over 1500. I would say that's fairly successful.

        May 19, 2013 at 2:18 am |
    • tarzan322

      I do believe it was dangerous and unreasonable for explorers in the 14th century to get on a ship and sail east. Many explorers were unable to get funding because most people said it couldn't be done. Luckily Spain had money to burn at the time, and was willing to fund some of those explorations to the East. Are you going to be another naysayer? The greatest rewards in life come with risk, and a lot of people are just not content with a safe and a secure society. They don't want to travel the well worn paths, they want to make their own.

      May 23, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
  14. Doug

    What many of us find interesting is this so called space observatory has not been able to find any evidence of man landing in the moon. No photos of the lunar rover, flag, etc.

    May 16, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • curtegg

      Love hearing from ignorant people. If you read about Kepler it does not do imagery in the manner that would even allow that (it detects drops in light readings ... signal level of photon capture). It does not image like a camera, its detector tracks voltage drops resulting from photon impingement on the detectors. Check out this description simple description: http://kepler.nasa.gov/multimedia/Interactives/HowKeplerDiscoversPlanetsElementary/

      May 16, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
      • jess

        photon detectors on infrengement volts. sounds like just a bunch of made up words to me.

        May 16, 2013 at 9:55 pm |
    • Mindforms

      It didn't find any evidence of God either.

      May 17, 2013 at 8:16 am |
    • Homer10

      BECAUSE IT DOESN'T LOOK AT THE MOON. IT LOOKS AT STARS ONLY. However the Hubble space telescope has spotted the LEM base module that the astronauts used to land on the moon. It also shows the other instrument packages left on the Moon, and the Luner Rover as well

      May 19, 2013 at 2:15 am |
  15. helenecha

    We have not yet seen the pictures and learn some detailed information about the suns of 132 planets that the Kepler mission has identified beyond our solar system. We don’t know if we stand a chance of enjoying seeing them before their planets?

    May 16, 2013 at 2:33 am |
  16. Keppler

    Earth is the only planet. If it can't find where it is (sitting on planet earth) then it really is in trouble.

    May 15, 2013 at 8:33 pm |

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