NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler Spacecraft in emergency mode

The planet-hunting Kepler telescope spacecraft is in a state of emergency 75 million miles from earth.

Inside the Hazardous Processing Facility at Astrotech in Titusville, Fla., NASA's Kepler spacecraft is placed on a stand for fueling. Kepler is designed to survey more than 100,000 stars in our galaxy to determine the number of sun-like stars that have Earth-size and larger planets, including those that lie in a star's "habitable zone," a region where liquid water, and perhaps life, could exist. If these Earth-size worlds do exist around stars like our sun, Kepler is expected to be the first to find them and the first to measure how common they are. The liftoff of Kepler aboard a Delta II rocket is currently planned for 10:48 p.m. EST March 5 from Space Launch Complex 17 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Photo credit: NASA/Tim Jacobs. Feb. 3, 2009

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA is trying to resuscitate its planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft, in a state of emergency 75 million miles away.

The treasured spacecraft — responsible for detecting nearly 5,000 planets outside our solar system — slipped into emergency mode sometime last week. The last regular contact was April 4. Ground controllers discovered the problem right before they were going to point Kepler toward the center of the Milky Way.

This is the latest crisis in the life of Kepler. Launched in 2009, the spacecraft completed its primary mission in 2012. Despite repeated breakdowns, Kepler kept going on an extended mission dubbed K2 — until now. The vast distance between Kepler and Earth make it all the harder to fix.

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