LOS ANGELES — NASA’s Kepler planet-hunting telescope is broken, potentially jeopardizing a mission that opened up whole new possibilities on life outside the solar system.
If engineers can’t find a fix, the malfunction could mean an end to the $600 million mission’s planet search, although the space agency wasn’t ready to call it quits Wednesday.
“I wouldn’t call Kepler down-and-out just yet,” said NASA sciences chief John Grunsfeld.
NASA said the spacecraft lost the second of four wheels that control the telescope’s orientation in space. Over the next few weeks, engineers will try to repair the wheel or find another solution. The telescope could be used for other purposes even if it can no longer track down planets.
Kepler was launched in 2009 in search of Earth-like planets. So far, it has confirmed 132 planets and spotted more than 2,700 potential ones. So far only two planets seem like ideal places for some sort of life to flourish.
Read more in Thursday’s Arizona Daily Star or StarNet.