NASA's Kepler spacecraft is in 'emergency mode'

Scientists are hoping the aging telescope can be used to hunt down hidden exoplanets.

NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle

NASA's Kepler space telescope was supposed to be continuing its K2 extended mission to hunt down hidden exoplanets, but now scientists say the spacecraft is in trouble (again). While trying to make regularly scheduled contact on Thursday engineers found that it is operating in "emergency mode" and are focused on trying to recover it. That's a bit tricky however, since it's almost 75 million miles away from Earth, and it takes 13 minutes for signals to make a round trip.

The artistic concept illustrates the relative locations of the search areas for NASA's K2 and Kepler missions.

Whatever happened, it apparently occurred before engineers tried to flip the spacecraft to make it look in the direction it's moving. Scientists worked out a way to recover Kepler after the second (of four) gyroscopic reaction wheels it uses for control failed in 2013, so we'll see what rabbit they can pull out of a hat this time.