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NASA to attempt Kepler revival

By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com   |   July 9, 2013 at 12:42 PM   |   Comments

July 9 (UPI) -- The planet-hunting Kepler space telescope may be down, but NASA is hoping it's not yet out.

Two months ago, the space agency announced the second of four reaction wheels -- which keep the telescope steady enough to gaze into space to spot planets -- had stopped spinning.

One wheel stopping isn't a problem -- Kepler only needs three to stay in balance -- but when the second wheel stopped responding, the Kepler team lept to action.

"The engineering team has devised initial tests for the recovery attempt and is checking them on the spacecraft test bed at the Ball Aerospace facility in Boulder, Colo," wrote project manager Roger Hunter on the mission blog. "The team anticipates that exploratory commanding of Kepler’s reaction wheels will commence mid-to-late July."

Kepler has been in "point-rest state," in which the vehicle nods back and forth using pressure from the sun in order to save fuel, since May 15, during which time it hasn't collected any new data.

Since its launch in 2009, Kepler has spotted 134 confirmed planets around nearby stars, and scientists are still combing through the data it has already collected. Another 3,277 planetary candidates have already been identified.

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