When NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope was ready to begin a unique exploration of planets that have no parent stars, the ground control team discovered that the observatory system had placed itself in emergency mode due to an unknown technical problem.
The situation is worrying, because the telescope is now burning through its limited supply of fuel that is spent on maneuvering. The control system is what allowed NASA to get Kepler back to work, even after two of his four gyroscopes, used at a point and holding a telescope on a target, failed in 2013. A new mission called K2 was launched in 2014. Kepler’s last regular contact with NASA occurred on April 4th.
“The spacecraft was in good condition and worked as expected,” said mission manager Charlie Sobek in a statement.
Somewhere between that time and Thursday, on which Kepler contacted the house, the telescope placed itself in emergency mode.
On Thursday, Kepler was supposed to launch a new campaign to search for orphan planets, which are free-floating worlds, and not tied to the host-star planets. The telescope has not yet been turned over to begin a project that was supposed to last about three months.
“Disaster recovery is a priority for the team,” said Sobek.