The Kepler Space Telescope Shuts Down For Good

Pablo Tucker
November 2, 2018

NASA's venerable Kepler space telescope, which discovered almost 2,700 exoplanets in distant star systems, has officially been retired after finally running out of fuel, the space agency wrote in a statement on Tuesday.

K2 lasted as long as the first mission, allowing Kepler to survey more than 500,000 stars total.

Nasa has experienced a series of spacecraft problems lately.

NASA's revolutionary planet-hunting Kepler space telescope has run out of fuel and will be retired, the space agency announced Tuesday. "This is not unexpected, and this marks the end of spacecraft operations for Kepler and the end of the collection of science data". Though the solution did not restore full functionality that's why Kepler could only aim itself for around 83 days at a time but made another phase of operations possible. In July, and again in September, the spacecraft entered safe mode after showing signs of declining fuel levels. "This time they were satisfied that this mission would be successful and gave us the go ahead to develop the Kepler spacecraft".

It was at the end of that second effort to return data and begin a new observation campaign that controllers noticed a sharp drop in fuel pressure.

As of today, Kepler has detected 2,681 confirmed planets, plus 2,899 other candidates yet to be confirmed, said Kepler project scientist Jessie Dotson. "That's what told us very, very clearly that we were now out of fuel and operating on fumes".

He said Kepler showed mankind how many planets might be out there.

Engineers managed to downlink all the final science data stored aboard the spacecraft before control was lost.

"There's just a big difference between believing and knowing", Sobeck said. "I suspect we will be doing that next week or maybe the week after", he said.

"I'm excited about the diverse discoveries that are yet to come from our data and how future missions will build upon Kepler's results", Dotson said. The most common size of planet discovered by Kepler doesn't exist in our solar system-a world between the size of Neptune and Earth.

Kepler showed us that "we live in a galaxy that's teeming with planets, and we're ready to take the next step to explore those planets", she said.

Nasa has declared its elite planet-hunting spacecraft dead.

While Kepler was focusing on looking for planets around sun-like stars, TESS will advance its legacy by looking at smaller stars to find Earth-sized worlds out there in the universe. In 2017, its mission at Ceres was extended again to study the dwarf planet from altitudes as low as 22 miles (35 kilometers) above Ceres' surface, with the main goal of understanding the evolution of Ceres and possibly active geology.

Its positioning system broke down in 2013, though scientists found a way to keep it operational.

Originally positioned to stare continuously at 150,000 stars in one star-studded patch of the sky in the constellation Cygnus, Kepler took the first survey of planets in our galaxy and became NASA's first mission to detect Earth-size planets in the habitable zones of their stars. "There were definitely challenges, but Kepler had an extremely talented team of scientists and engineers who overcame them". "And, boy, are we glad that he did that".

Four years into the mission, the main goals had been met, but mechanical failures put a sudden end to future observations.

"Kepler kind of just cracked that out of being the typical expectation", Boyd said during the news conference. He noted the spacecraft had occasional glitches, but nothing that could not be corrected.

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