Planet-Hunting Kepler Spacecraft In Trouble

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(CNN) — The future of NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space observatory was in question Wednesday after a part that helps aim the spacecraft failed, the U.S. space agency said.

Controllers found Tuesday that one of the three reaction wheels needed to orient the spacecraft had stopped spinning, Associate NASA Administrator John Grunsfeld told reporters. The probe has gone into a “safe mode” and aimed itself back at Earth, and controllers are trying to figure if they can get the balky part back in operation, he said.

“We’re not ready to call the mission over,” Grunsfeld said.

The Kepler probe has discovered 132 planets beyond our solar system since its launch in 2009.

By Matt Smith

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