Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Glitch could end NASA planet search
by Staff Writers
Moffet Field, Calif. (UPI) Oct 16, 2012

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Technical problems could keep NASA's Kepler space telescope from its goal of finding Earth-sized planets in habitable zones around other stars, astronomers say.

Launched in 2009, Kepler monitors thousands of stars for dips in brightness, an indication a planet could be passing in front of them. The space telescope needs another four years to complete its exoplanet survey but a critical hardware failure on Kepler this summer has astronomers worried the mission could end at any time, Spaceflight Now reported Tuesday.

One of the spacecraft's four reaction wheels -- spinning masses that control Kepler's orientation in space and keep the telescope locked on to target stars -- stopped July 14 due to increasing friction.

"We have to guide very accurately, and we had four reaction wheels to do this guidance," William Borucki, mission principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., said. "One of those was a spare, and we now have lost one of those four wheels ... The guiding is still great, but they've all had over a billion revolutions. If we lose another one, this mission terminates. We cannot track very well with two. We cannot track well enough to find planets."

Engineers will try to ensure Kepler's three active reaction wheels stay warm and operating by alternating their rotation between clockwise and counter-clockwise directions, Borucki said.

"We're trying to understand how to protect those last three wheels," he said. "People have studied these reaction wheels over the years and never came up with a good answer."

The Kepler mission was intended to last three-and-a-half years, but NASA hopes to keep the telescope operational through 2016, the report said.


Related Links
Lands Beyond Beyond - extra solar planets - news and science
Life Beyond Earth

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Distant planet found circling with 4 stars
Honolulu (UPI) Oct 15, 2012
Two U.S. citizen scientists have discovered a planet in a system with four different suns, the first known of its type, U.S. and British astronomers say. The distant planet orbits one pair of stars while a second pair of stars orbits around it, they said. The planet was discovered by two U.S. volunteers using the website who spotted faint dips in light caused by ... read more

Giant smashup created the Moon, say scientists

University of Tennessee study confirms solar wind as source for moon water

Russia to launch lunar mission in 2015

Moon water could have solar source: study

NMSU Graduate Student Looks For Indications Of Life On Mars In Possible Trace Methane Gas

Rover's Second Scoop Discarded, Third Scoop Commanded

Robotic Arm Tools Get To Work On Rock Outcrop

Curiosity Preparing for Second Scoop

NASA must reinvest in nanotechnology research, according to new Rice University paper

Austrian space diver no stranger to danger

Baumgartner feat boosts hopes for imperilled astronauts

Austrian breaks sound barrier in record space jump

China launches civilian technology satellites

ChangE-2 Mission To Lagrange L2 Point

Meeting of heads of ESA and China Manned Space Agency

China Spacesat gets 18-million-USD gov't support

Crew Unloads Dragon, Finds Treats

Station Crew Opens Dragon Hatch

NASA and International Partners Approve Year Long ISS Stay

Year on ISS planned ahead of manned Mars mission

AFSPC commander convenes AIB

Proton Lofts Intelsat 23 For Americas, Europe and Africa Markets

India to launch 58 space missions in next 5 years

SpaceX Dragon Successfully Attaches To Space Station

Glitch could end NASA planet search

Ultra-Compact Planetary System Is A Touchstone For Understanding New Planet Population

Nearest Star Has Earth Mass Planet

Distant planet found circling with 4 stars

Physicists crack another piece of the glass puzzle

Worldwide smartphone users top 1 bn: report

New paper reveals fundamental chemistry of plasma/liquid interactions

Google opens window to 'where Internet lives'

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement