back to article NASA gives blacked-out Kepler space 'scope the kiss of life

The Kepler space telescope is back in action after mysteriously shifting into emergency mode last week. "Mission operations engineers have successfully recovered the Kepler spacecraft from Emergency Mode (EM)," said Charlie Sobeck, Kepler's mission manager at NASA's Ames Research Center. "On Sunday morning, the spacecraft …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I am completely operational, and all my circuits are functioning perfectly.

    1. lawndart

      It was those weird signals it occasionally gave, like "This is SID. UFO detected, sector 4281 decimal 3."

  2. NoneSuch Silver badge
    Happy

    I sense a Big Bang Theory episode coming soon about the "unexpected error".

    1. Sureo

      "...after an unexplained fault..."

      No it was just Windows Update.

      1. Daggerchild Silver badge

        Re: "...after an unexplained fault..."

        "No it was just Windows Update."

        Hah - An uninvited Windows 10 trying to force its way up the link. Should only paralyse communications for a few weeks before slipping popups into random images telling the Universe how awesome it is.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      I sense a Big Bang Theory episode coming soon about the "unexpected error".

      Something along the lines of the Wolowizard accidentally leaving some lines of his own code in the communications protocols - the bits that flag an error when the automatic porn downloads are interrupted...

  3. Ugotta B. Kiddingme Silver badge
    Pint

    yet again...

    ... resourceful engineers have won the day and squeezed a bit more usefulness out of a space device WELL beyond its expected lifespan. Chapeau doffed and glass raised.

  4. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
    Trollface

    Are you sure it's not just because they haven't patched Adobe Flash? Now that's done, everything's hunky-dory until the next one is needed. Say in about 17 minutes...

  5. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Or maybe a minor timeout while the computers "upgraded" to Win10 followed by an "oops, something went wrong"????

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    > After months of careful calculations, NASA worked out a way to stabilize the instrument by using the pressure of solar wind against the telescope's solar panels counterbalanced by the two remaining wheels.

    Wow, that's some serious boffinry there.

    Well done those guys in white coats.

  7. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Shame someone can't just go out and put a couple of new gyrodynes in.

    The downside of robots instead of people in space.

    1. Sureo

      Re: Bah!

      NASA has been looking for a volunteer to spend 10 years inside a tiny box far from Earth, but so far no takers.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: Bah!

        Where do I sign?

      2. Swarthy
        Devil

        Re: Bah!

        I know quite a few people that I would like to "volunteer" for that mission. Where do I send the names?

  8. Kaltern

    I fully expect a space-based 3D-printing station with little dronebots buzzing about fixing things in the near future...

  9. bazza Silver badge

    "The telescope has been in operation since December 2009 and was only supposed to last for three and a half years. NASA engineers are experts at interesting hacks to keep hardware going,"

    I'll say. They've pulled some good tricks over the years, but using the pressure of the solar wind definitely ranks highly in the pantheon of cunning ideas.

    The engineers behind all of the remote probes that have been exploring the solar system have delivered what's got to be the greatest value for money ever seen! Even the Russian missions to Venus count as being "cheap" despite having to try several times before succeeding. I'm continually amazed at just how often these things have worked and how they've never failed to find something amazing in the most unlikely places. BZ.

    1. cray74

      They've pulled some good tricks over the years

      Agreed.

      but using the pressure of the solar wind definitely ranks highly in the pantheon of cunning ideas.

      It was proven out by their granpappies on 1973's Mariner 10, which deliberately and actively used light pressure for attitude control. While Kepler's use of light pressure is not novel, it is still fine piece of genius because Kepler wasn't designed for that. Mariner 10 had 2 adjustable solar panels (to reduce panel temperatures near Mercury) and a steerable main communication dish that could adjust reflections for attitude control, while Kepler doesn't. (And I just noticed that Mariner 10 looks like a spacegoing Wall-E. Look at those cameras.)

      Also, a nitpick: Sunlight pressure, not solar wind. Solar wind (hydrogen and helium from the sun) has about 1/10th the pressure of those slightly greasy photons Kepler is utilizing.

  10. TJ1

    Hackers 1 - 0 Aliens

    The best (and should be only) use of the word "Hacker".

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Hackers 1 - 0 Aliens

      Nice to see NASA still has some steely-eyed missile men & women.

  11. Herby
    Joke

    Don't you just reset the thing??

    CTRL-ALT-DEL,and start it up again. Isn't that the Microsoft way??

    Start over (which may mean another launch) and try again to see if it faults the same way...

    Oh, you mean it costs money not in the budget to do that??

    Never mind...

  12. MacroRodent Silver badge

    No mystery

    Cosmic rays, I guess. Kepler orbits so far from Earth it is not inside our magnetosphere, unlike LEO satellites. Even if it is built with radiation-hardened electronics, occasionally something still gets zapped.

  13. frank ly

    75 Million Miles

    I've read that it's in a heliocentric earth-trailing orbit. I've also read that the moon is 0.25 million miles away from earth and that the earth is 8 light minutes from the sun and that it takes 13 minutes for NASA to communicate with Kepler (I assume that's a round trip). It really is alone out there.

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: 75 Million Miles

      The distance to the sun (AU) is about 150 million kilometres, or 93 million miles. Well within the family.

      Pluto has a moderately eccentric and inclined orbit during which it ranges from 30 to 49 astronomical units or AU. But yes, It really is alone out there.

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