Remember NASA‘s space telescope Kepler that had been suffering from malfunction and hence, its journey for hunting new Earth-like planets became uncertain? NASA was hardly trying to resurrect Kepler and the good news is Kepler is now back online.
NASA launched its Kepler space telescope on 7 March, 2009. Since then, it was busy finding Earth-like planets in space. However, Kepler was launched into space with four reaction wheels. But in 2012, one of the wheels stopped working after showing signs of erratic friction. In January of 2013, NASA engineers from Earth noticed another wheel (wheel no. 2) of Kepler was experiencing too much friction. So they shut down the spacecraft for a couple of weeks to give it a rest and hoped the wheel’s lubricant would spread out automatically and solve the problem. Fortunately, the wheel’s lubricant had spread out automatically and NASA engineers again turned the spacecraft back on. But later, the engineers found that the friction was still there.
On May 12, 2013, Kepler put itself into safe mode when it noticed it was drifting out of position. When NASA woke it up on May 14, the telemetry indicated that wheel no. 4 wasn’t moving, despite commanding it to spin. At then, only two of Kepler’s wheels were working fine. But Kepler needed minimum three of its wheels active to keep itself properly and precisely aimed. NASA tried hard to fully recover Kepler, but failed. But the agency didn’t lose hope. NASA decided to resurrect Kepler with some modifications so that it could work properly.
And now it seems like NASA people might have let out a massive sigh of relief because $600 million costly Kepler has come back online and is now observing planets and celestial bodies outside our own solar system as before. Note that Kepler space telescope has discovered 132 exoplanets and 2,700 objects that could potentially be planetary bodies.
Thanks To: New Scientist