It is a sad day for all of those that care about finding potentially habitable planets. The Kepler Space Telescope, the thing that has been giving us data about all these potentially habitable planets, has suffered a major mechanical failure.
Initially, it appeared that all three wheels responded and that rotation had been successfully stopped, but reaction wheel 4 remained at full torque while the spin rate dropped to zero. This is a clear indication that there has been an internal failure within the reaction wheel, likely a structural failure of the wheel bearing.
With the failure of a second reaction wheel, it’s unlikely that the spacecraft will be able to return to the high pointing accuracy that enables its high-precision photometry. However, no decision has been made to end data collection.
Kepler had successfully completed its primary three-and-a-half year mission and entered an extended mission phase in November 2012.
More likely what happened is their new intern and his buddies wanted to see how fast they could get that sucker spinning. Those would be some crazy photos. The good news is that it has collected a butt-ton of data already that needs to be sifted through, so even if this is the end of Kepler, at least it isn’t a total failure like my attempts at finding potentially habitable plants. Turns out that it is really hard to see little things orbiting stars, and my neighbors aren’t too fond of me outside at night pointing my binoculars all over the place.
Thanks to VOA News for the photo. (First decent photo on Google Search)