Kepler Planet-Hunter is Healthy and Back!
From the Cosmic Diary - Franck Marchis - I mentioned in my previous post the detection of an issue on the Kepler spacecraft which pushed the engineering team to put the space telescope in safe mode for 10 days. The Kepler team announced today that science operation was reinitiated yesterday. That’s a great news!
On January 17, the team detected some recurrent frictions on the reaction wheel #4, since its complete failure would have mean the end of the mission, the telescope scientific operation was halted. Because in its safe mode configuration, the spacecraft maintains its altitude using its thrusters only, the reaction wheels stop spinning and the lubricant got a chance to spread uniformly inside the wheels, returning the spacecraft to nominal operation. The engineering team took this decision by scrutinizing the activity on the wheels after one of them failed in July 2012.
The transition from safe mode to normal operation happened without any issues and Kepler telescope started collecting data again on January 28 at 5 pm PST. This is a great job done by Kepler engineers which reminds us the challenges of space exploration.
I am confident that more exoplanet discoveries are on the way, and this good news is a relief for the community of exo-planetary astronomers and their friends.
Live long and prosper Kepler!
Franck Marchis, SETI Institute Research Scientist