NASA Racing to Fix Spacecraft That's Stuck in Emergency Mode 75M Miles Away

The Kepler probe is nearly 75 million miles from Earth.

ByABC News
April 11, 2016, 7:46 AM

— -- NASA scientists are trying to figure out what caused one of their space probes to go into emergency mode, and fix the problem as quickly as possible.

NASA discovered last week that the Kepler spacecraft, initially launched in 2009 to discover Earth-sized planets orbiting other stars, had kicked into emergency mode in deep space, prompting efforts on Earth to recalibrate the unmanned observatory.

"The spacecraft is nearly 75 million miles from Earth, making the communication slow," mission manager Charlie Sobeck said. "Even at the speed of light, it takes 13 minutes for a signal to travel to the spacecraft and back."

The last regular contact with the spacecraft was April 4, when the spacecraft was in good health and operating as expected, Sobeck said.

Kepler completed its prime mission in 2012, detecting more than 1,000 confirmed planets throughout the solar system. The spacecraft began a new mission in 2014 called K2, discovering other astronomical objects including stars and supernovae.