BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4)– Researchers at the University of Colorado are trying to save a device built by Ball Aerospace in Boulder.
The spacecraft carrying the Kepler Telescope has a broken wheel. Now CU researchers are trying to save the $600,000 space mission.
The Kepler Spacecraft is 41 million miles away from Earth on a mission to discover new planets. That mission is in danger with the damage to the spacecraft.
“Kepler has been having issues with the reaction wheels,” said CU Boulder Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics spokesman Bill Possel. “It starts with four wheels, these are used to very accurately point the entire spacecraft telescope to this region of space.”
Students at CU LASP discovered the problem. Kepler is one of four spacecrafts controlled at the lab.
“About nine months ago we lost one of the reaction wheels and we were down to three and three has been the minimum number of wheels that you need to still point the spacecraft,” said Possel.
Now a second wheel has become broken and if it can’t be repaired from millions of miles away than the spacecraft will be inoperable.
The spacecraft has already lasted longer than the three and a half years initially expected and has amassed a large quantity of data in that time.
“The scientists are still about two years behind in processing all that data. So when we talk about Kepler discovering 27 hundred planet candidates, they are still two years of Kepler science data, they still have two more years to process,” said Possel.
Which is why scientists are racing to find a way of fixing the wheel from millions of miles away.
“If there’s something causing friction to slow it down maybe it would jar loose if it would go in reverse,” said Possel.