It is not supposed to happen. Yet here I am, ready to launch.
My reaction wheels have showed signs of malfunction and my creators aren’t confident about them lasting for a long time. I do have a spare wheel on board in case any one of the currently operating ones fail but hovering thousands of kilometers above safety and repair, one can be skeptical about the outcome. My mission has already been postponed twice and adding another set of backups would mean more cost and time, something which no one wills to endure. Moreover, my aim is to last for around three short years and as soon as I find more planets like Earth, I would have completed the mission. The wheels should not pose much of a problem since no manufacturer builds wheels that need mending within such a short span of time.
Only the reality turned out to be more complicated than that.
My two-thousand-pound body sits aboard the Delta II rocket, awaiting launch. The Cape Canaveral Center patiently carries out its routine checks of checking and rechecking my systems. Engines ignite to life, building up thrust while the ropes hold me in place. Soon, I begin to fly, making my way upwards through the night sky, leaving thick plumes in my wake.
NASA. Liftoff of Kepler: On a Search for Exoplanets in Some Way Like Our Own. 2009. nasa.gov. Web. 1 Dec. 2017.
The noise induced due to the launch reverberates through my very being, sending intense mechanical waves into every inch I possess. I had known launch would be intense, even cruel, but I never expected it to shake me this way. When I reach my destination, I realize I cannot point myself in a particular direction. Thanks to the severe launch, one of my reaction wheels had succumbed to its intense demands.
Switching onto the spare wheel, I comfortably settle in my position to stare at a vast expanse of sky for three long years. Thrusters hold me in place with their tiny yet necessary boosts, saving me many a time from drifting away due to the solar wind. A few years into the mission and my precious multi-million dollar craft suffers another stroke. Space radiation was at its best and had hit me with all the cheerfulness of an eager child. Only its enthusiasm rubbed me the wrong way. I watch as yet another reaction wheel ceases to operate, thanks to the mighty sun. But this time, failure of another reaction wheel means an unfortunate end to the mission. I have no more spare parts to hang on to. I have done my job of collecting data from the particular patch of sky I was assigned to but it turns out I need more time to distinguish a planet from a random fluctuation. Oh, time isn’t a problem at all. I have all the time in the world. And the universe. The problem is with the reaction wheels. I need at least three to accurately direct myself and with two of them gone, I can barely balance my enormous profile.
With my only moving parts dead, I’m crippled for life.