NASA has reported that as of April 7th, 2016, the Kepler spacecraft, which searches for more possible planets and formations in our solar system, has entered Emergency Mode, or EM. According to the space administration, EM is the lowest-possible operational mode and will consume very little fuel. However, it is now up to the team in charge of the craft to recover from EM which is, as of now, their highest priority.
Luckily, if a spacecraft ever enters Emergency Mode, ground-based communications can be established to assist the crew. However, since Kepler is nearly 75 million miles from Earth, this method of speaking is very slow. Even if messages between the spacecraft and NASA traveled back-and-forth at the speed of light, it’d take 13 minutes for either end to receive the signal. This isn’t ideal since EM is so critical, however it’s their only hope.
The last time Kepler was regularly communicating with NASA was on April 4th. Then, nothing seemed to be wrong with the craft and everything was going as planned.
According to NASA, Kepler has been successful in the past with previous missions and has discovered almost 5,000 exoplanets, with more than 1,000 being confirmed:
Kepler completed its prime mission in 2012, detecting nearly 5,000 exoplanets, of which, more than 1,000 have been confirmed. In 2014 the Kepler spacecraft began a new mission called K2. In this extended mission, K2 continues the search for exoplanets while introducing new research opportunities to study young stars, supernovae, and many other astronomical objects.
Charlie Sobeck, the publisher of this update from NASA, has stated that updates will be provided as more and more information about the craft and it’s current state becomes available.