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NASA spacecraft's planet-hunting days may be over

Published May 15, 2013 2:12 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

LOS ANGELES • NASA's planet-hunting telescope is broken.

NASA said Wednesday the Kepler spacecraft lost the second of four wheels that control the telescope's orientation in space.

If engineers can't find a fix, the failure means Kepler won't be able to look for planets outside our solar system anymore.

Kepler was launched in 2009 in search of Earth-like planets. So far, it has confirmed 132 planets and spotted more than 2,700 potential ones.

While ground telescopes can hunt for exoplanets, Kepler is much more advanced.

Deputy project manager Charles Sobeck says there's a backlog of data that scientists still need to analyze even if Kepler's planet-hunting days may be numbered.