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Nasa has 'retired' the alien-hunting Kepler space telescope

02 November 2018
Nasa has 'retired' the alien-hunting Kepler space telescope

The Kepler space telescope of NASA which discovered 2,700 exoplanets distant star systems is now officially retired after running out of fuel.

NASA on Tuesday announced the demise of its elite planet-hunting telescope just a few months shy of its 10th anniversary.

But the telescope has now run out of the fuel needed for further operations.

Though Kepler will no longer collect any more data, there's still plenty of images for NASA and other scientists to examine.

Mission scientists anxious that the spacecraft may have been irreparably rendered ineffective after the steering malfunction in 2012, though they eventually came up with an ingenious solution in 2013 using pressure generated by the sun's rays to compensate for a failed reaction wheel and aim it at observation targets. Read the original article.

He said Kepler showed mankind how many planets might be out there. This solution did not restore full functionality-Kepler could subsequently only aim itself for around 83 days at a time-but it did make it possible to start another phase of operations.

Nasa has experienced a series of spacecraft problems lately. Its positioning system broke down in 2013 about four years after its launch, though scientists found a way to keep it operational. "And the Kepler mission has paved the way for future exoplanet-studying missions". "During that mission it has revolutionized our understanding of our place in the cosmos".

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.

The driving force behind Kepler was Bill Borucki, the now-retired principal investigator for the mission at NASA Ames.

Bill Borucki, the mission's retired principal investigator, compared the task to "trying to detect a flea crawling across a vehicle headlight when the auto was 100 miles away".

"Because of Kepler, we know that planets are an incredibly diverse set of objects, much more diverse than we observe in our own solar system", Hertz said. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. "This time they were satisfied that this mission would be successful and gave us the go ahead to develop the Kepler spacecraft". TESS is on a two-year, $337 million mission. Starting in 2014, this new mission was dubbed K2.

"We know the spacecraft's retirement isn't the end of Kepler's discoveries", Kepler's project scientist Jessie Dotson said.

"When we talk about building these new missions they are often very specialized and require that when they look at a planet they spend a lot of hours of operation yet they have a finite lifetime, " Borucki told SpaceFlight Insider.

The telescope's successor, the far more powerful Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), launched in April 2018 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and is projected to discover over 20,000 new exoplanets.

In all, close to 4,000 exoplanets have been confirmed over the past two decades, two-thirds of them thanks to Kepler.

Launched on March 6, 2009, the Kepler space telescope combined cutting-edge techniques in measuring stellar brightness with the largest digital camera outfitted for outer space observations at that time. The planet, called Kepler-16b, is the most "Tatooine-like" planet yet found in our galaxy and is depicted here in this artist's concept with its two stars.

"Because of Kepler, what we think about our place in the universe has changed", Hertz said.