Kepler Telescope Placed Into Safe Mode

SPACE (1/22, Wall) reports, “NASA’s prolific planet-hunting Kepler space telescope has been placed in a precautionary ‘safe mode’ after engineers noticed a problem with the instrument’s orientation mechanism.” Kepler officials, in discussing the decision to place the spacecraft into safe mode on January 17, said, “Resting the [reaction] wheels provides an opportunity to redistribute internal lubricant, potentially returning the friction to normal levels. … Once the 10-day rest period ends, the team will recover the spacecraft from this resting safe mode and return to science operations.” The article notes the spacecraft only has three functioning reaction wheels and because all three are needed for operations, “another failure could potentially end the $600 million Kepler mission.”