NASA’s Kepler spacecraft recovers from "emergency mode"

Since its launch, the Kepler spacecraft has discovered thousands of potential planets.

By Scott Stenholm - Editorial Producer, Larry King Now

After a few tense days, NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has recovered from emergency mode, the space agency announced Monday.

While engineers have restored craft’s functions, they cannot answer what triggered the self-inflicting maneuver. “It was the quick response and determination of the engineers throughout the weekend that led to the recovery... We are deeply appreciative of their efforts, and for the outpouring of support from the mission’s fans and followers from around the world," Kepler mission manager Charlie Sobeck wrote in a release.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Kepler team discovered that the spacecraft had fallen into emergency mode after a regularly scheduled check-in on Thursday. Emergency mode is fuel intensive, which means the spacecraft is spending precious reserves it needs to steer. For now, it’s unclear what caused Kepler to enter this mode, Michele Johnson, a spokeswoman at NASA’s Ames Research Center, wrote in an email. “That’s a question we won’t be able to answer for some time,” Johnson said. “The priority is getting the spacecraft back to doing its job, but making sure the steps taken are safe.”

Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Wendy Stenzel

As of January 2015, Kepler and its follow-up observations had found 1,013 confirmed exoplanets in about 440 stellar systems, along with a further 3,199 unconfirmed planet candidates.

Earlier last year, Dr. Nick Siegler, Technology Manager for NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program, told our own Larry King that there are over 200 billion planets in our galaxy alone. He also says that the odds are “so high” that life exists on at least one of these planets.

Last summer, NASA announced that it had discovered an exoplanet that is being described as “Earth’s cousin”. Dr. Siegler came back on Larry King Now to explain why this is such an incredible find. 

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