NASA has reestablished contact with the Kepler space observatory, a telescope which is seeking habitable planets around other suns and experienced problems over the weekend, but the probe is “stable” and “OK,” the U.S. space agency said Monday in a communique.
NASA engineers over the weekend regained contact with Kepler, which is located 75 million miles (more than 120 million kilometers) from Earth and they were able to cancel the probe’s “emergency status,” its lowest operational level, which was activated last
Thursday, the probe’s mission chief, Charlier Sobeck, said Monday.
On Sunday morning, Kepler was declared “stable” with its communications antenna pointed toward Earth, whereby scientists can download the data it is collecting on its space journey.
An investigation has been launched with the priority of getting the craft back to its scientific operations, said Sobeck.
This is the first time in its seven-year mission that Kepler has activated its “emergency mode,” and NASA prioritized its communications to the observatory.
“Even at the speed of light, it takes 13 minutes for a signal to travel to the spacecraft and back,” Sobeck said in a weekend online update from NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.
Kepler was launched in March 2009 and finished its primary mission in 2012, and it has alerted NASA to the possible existence of 5,000 planets outside the Solar System, of which the space agency has been able to confirm the existence of 1,000.
In 2014, the space observatory began a new mission, called “K2,” in which is not only looks for planets outside the Solar System but also identifies young stars, supernovae and other astronomical bodies.
Among the main achievements of the probe to date was the discovery in 2015 of “Earth’s cousin,” the first planet discovered orbiting in the habitable zone of a star similar to the Sun, thus making the body one of the best candidates for extraterrestrial life.