Kepler, the little NASA spacecraft that could, no longer can

‘Goodnight, Kepler’: NASA’s Planet-Hunting Telescope Has Finally Run Out Of Fuel

Research: NASA retires Kepler Space Telescope —

Dennis Overbye New York Times News Service NASA's vaunted planet-hunting space telescope Kepler has run out of maneuvering fuel and is being retired, the space agency announced on Tuesday.

Associate Administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC, Thomas Zurbuchen said, "As NASA's first planet-hunting mission, Kepler has wildly exceeded all our expectations and paved the way for our exploration and search for life in the solar system and beyond".

In a new update, NASA reveals that the telescope has officially run out of the fuel it uses to maneuver.

Watch to find out about its incredible journey. "It was an extremely clever approach to doing this kind of science", said Leslie Livesay, director for astronomy and physics at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who served as Kepler project manager during mission development. Hertz said that NASA does not provide any definitive list of how numerous planets discovered by Kepler might be Earth-like, but a scientific paper published several years ago listed 30. Four years into observations, the space telescope started experiencing mechanical failures.

Kepler's nine-and-a-half-year flight was more than twice as long as originally planned.

Kepler observed thousands of stars at once, looking for telltale dimming patterns caused by the passing of an orbiting planet.

However, a solution was found and in 2014 the "K2" element of the mission began, using solar pressure to help stabilize the pointing direction and observe new patches of the night sky.

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Kepler's more powerful follow-on mission, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is already in operation. It has even spotted a number of planets, many of which could have life, that were dubbed "Earth 2.0"; showing that they are more common than scientists previously thought.

The old telescope has been running low on fuel for the past months, so scientists were waiting for this moment to come, preparing to download all the data gathered in the last months. The engineers essentially rebooted the mission, devising a way to allow Kepler to survey new parts of the sky every few months.

The final commands have been sent, and the spacecraft will remain a safe distance from Earth to avoid colliding with our planet.

Launched on March 6 in 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, reported Xinhua. Scientists are expected to spend a decade or more in search of new discoveries in the treasure trove of data Kepler provided.

"While this may be a sad event, we are by no means unhappy with the performance of this marvellous machine", NASA project system engineer Charlie Sobeck said.

Once TESS' discoveries are confirmed, they could prove vital to the work of NASA's upcoming and powerful James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is scheduled to launch sometime in 2021.

"The search for planets is the search for life", said Natalie Batalha, a longtime Kepler mission scientist now at the University of California, Santa Cruz, during a conference in 2017.

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