The Kepler Spacecraft has once again escaped equipment failures that threatened to doom the observatory, returning to its previous K2 mission. The observatory is designed to discover planets surrounding other stars.

The K2 mission is, in effect, the second life for the exoplanet hunter. After two of the four reaction wheels within the observatory failed in May 2013, mission controllers lost their ability to easily aim the spacecraft at a desired target.

In 2014, mission planners found a way to use the solar wind to steer the craft. Once more, the vehicle resumed its search for planets orbiting other stars. The K2 mission also extends search targets for the observatory to other, more traditional targets, such as supernovae. The mission is divided into a series of 90-day campaigns.

Kepler's computers and subsystems were subjected to a power-cycle routine, clearing the emergency state. The observatory started to return to scientific studies on April 19, as astronomers refreshed the list of targets for the observatory, as well as reset logs and counters. Controllers also sent a new command sequence to the craft. As the final updates were received by Kepler, the craft was pointed to the center of our galaxy, returning to its scientific mission, now labeled C9.

"The C9 observing period will conclude on July 1, when the galactic center is no longer in view from the vantage point of the spacecraft. K2 will then begin Campaign 10, which will proceed to investigate an entirely new set of interesting astrophysical targets," Charlie Sobeck, project manager at NASA Ames Research Center wrote.

Astronomers are still uncertain what caused the Kepler spacecraft to enter emergency mode on April 8, 2016. Currently, the most popular theory is that a transient electrical signal may have triggered a series of alarms aboard the craft, leading to the shift to the state in which it was found.

Kepler has already discovered more than 1,000 confirmed exoplanets orbiting other stars. In addition, thousands of additional findings are awaiting confirmation by other astronomers. So far, astronomers know of around 2,000 exoplanets, roughly half of which were discovered using the Kepler observatory. Of the 3,600 remaining candidates, researchers suggest around 90 percent will later be confirmed as alien worlds.

Despite a handful of serious setbacks since Kepler reached space, the observatory has performed well beyond expectations.

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