This is How NASA Fixed a Telescope Currently In Orbit


In one sense, the fact that the Kepler space telescope found a new planet last week is pretty unremarkable news. The probe has discovered nearly a thousand exoplanets orbiting stars beyond the Sun since its launch in 2009, and it has another three thousand or so planet candidates waiting for confirmation. At this point, “Kepler Finds Planet” is starting to sound a little like “Dog Bites Man.”

It’s a big deal nevertheless. Back in 2013, Kepler blew out one of the reaction wheels that allows it to focus precisely on its target stars, looking for the silhouette of a planet passing by. It had already lost one wheel, and with just two remaining, the craft couldn’t do its job. “Unfortunately,” said John Grunsfeld, the scientist-astronaut who helped refurbish the Hubble Space Telescope during a 2009 spacewalk, at a NASA press conference just after the Kepler breakdown, “Kepler is not in…

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