Kepler’s hunt for Earth-like planets may be cut short because of equipment failure


NASA’s Kepler probe, tasked with searching distant stars for Earth-like planets, may not be able to continue its mission. On a conference call, NASA confirmed that the spacecraft is currently in “safe mode” after a vital reaction wheel failed, likely because of a problem with the wheel bearing or other components. Kepler launched with four reaction wheels, but one failed last year, and three are necessary to keep the craft oriented.

Though Kepler is currently stable, scientists would need to find a way to either get it running again or route around it in order to continue the primary mission. “We would not call Kepler down and out just yet,” said one of the conference participants, despite a press release saying it was “unlikely” that…

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