Earlier this week, NASA's Kepler team received an indication that the spacecraft fuel tank is running very low. It is necessary to prepare for the download of the scientific data collected during the last observation campaign in the framework of the Deep Space Network. Once the data is downloaded, the team expects to begin a new observation campaign with the spacecraft's remaining fuel. Considered the pioneer of planet hunting, it's discovered almost 3,000 confirmed worlds and as many potential candidates. "Returning the data back to Earth is the highest priority for the remaining fuel".
In its nine-year run, the space telescope has had its fair share of trouble: it slipped into emergency mode earlier in 2016 due to unknown reasons making the NASA declare a temporary "spacecraft emergency" while the space agency worked to bring the telescope back online. They will then maneuver it into the proper orientation for transmimitting the data.
NASA in a report said that once all the data is downloaded, Kepler will be switched on again to continue its observations till it eventually runs out of fuel.
NASA will provide an update after the scheduled download.
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"The Kepler team is planning to collect as much science data as possible in its remaining time and beam it back to Earth before the loss of the fuel-powered thrusters means that we can't aim the spacecraft for data transfer".
Kepler has been delivering important data about exoplanets in all this time and even after it is gone, scientists will still be analyzing all the information for years to come.
After finding thousands of exoplanets since it was launched into space in 2009, the Kepler Space Telescope reached the end of its life. The $600 million Kepler mission finds alien worlds using the "transit method", picking up on tiny brightness dips caused when orbiting planets cross a star's face - as seen from Kepler's perspective.
Launched in 2009, the Kepler mission is specifically created to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone and determine the fraction of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets. Kepler was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies and had a planned operational life of about three and a half years. As a young Star Trek fan he participated in the letter-writing campaign which resulted in the space shuttle prototype being named Enterprise.While his academic studies have ranged from psychology and archaeology to biology, he has never lost his passion for space exploration.