NASA recently dealt with a struggle concerning its Kepler spacecraft, which during a routine checkup, was found to be in emergency mode some 75 million miles away from Earth in the pitch black abyss of space.
While in emergency mode, Kepler was power efficient, but was burning through more fuel than astronomers wanted it to. Unfortunately, because of the distance, it can be quite difficult to troubleshoot issues, as there is no way to send a repair crew up into space to fix it.
NASA engineers regained control over the spacecraft Sunday morning after several days of hard work. Now, the goal will be downloading all of the data the spacecraft has on it to figure out exactly what happened that put it in that state. To make things easier, the antenna of the spacecraft is currently pointing directly at Earth.
Since the spacecraft is so far from our planet, it takes about 13 minutes for data to travel back and forth between it and Earth, even at the speed of light. As a result, it’ll be a while before Kepler is allowed to get out of low fuel burn mode and return to science mode to continue its mission to the center of the Milky Way.
Scientists will begin analyzing this information this week as it comes from the spacecraft. Little by little, the information will help scientists determine what the cause of the problem was and try to prevent it from occurring again in the future.
NASA will likely provide the public with another announcement come the time of the discovery of what happened. Until then, the spacecraft remains in a low power state to preserve its energy for its long jouney ahead.