The Kepler Space Telescope – NASA’s revolution in the search for extraterrestrial life officially “died” due to fuel starvation on October 30. After nearly a decade of legendary discovery of up to 70% of the 3,800 known habitable planets, Kepler was “exhausted”, unable to continue to reorient itself to analyze cosmic objects as well as send collected data back to Earth.
This pioneering device has helped humans discover thousands of planets outside our solar system. After years of working with more than double its original 4-year mission, Kepler finally ran out of fuel.
Engineers realized the space telescope ran out of fuel earlier this summer. At that point, they put it into safe mode for a short time to focus on taking the science data Kepler had gathered and bringing it back to the ground. Then the machine was restarted to continue collecting more data, and passed the final stages of its glorious career.
Silence and drift in orbit
Kepler was launched with enough fuel to last over 6 years; but he eventually lived to be 9 years old. “We filled it with fuel so it can last as long as possible“said Charlie Sobek, system engineer for the Kepler Telescope Project.
Now that the fuel has run out, NASA has decided to officially retire this device. It is currently in a safe orbit away from Earth. This week or next, engineers will send a command to the machine to turn off its transmitters and other equipment, close its eyes, and drift freely in its orbit.
During its first years of operation, Kepler was enormously successful. It is responsible for searching for planets in a particular area of the sky and monitors around 150,000 stars for planetary traces.
All data collected by Kepler is safely returned to Earth, and scientists will continue to be engrossed in their study for many years to come. But new information is also constantly coming in. Several other extrasolar planet-search missions are still underway, including the long-delayed James Webb Space Telescope.
Fortunately, another telescope is already in orbit and ready to continue Kepler’s career. NASA launched the Transiting Extrasolar Planetary Survey (TESS) satellite earlier this year. He took his first scientific image in August, and by September he had identified two potential planets.
TESS has a long way to go if he wants to catch up with Kepler. But one day in the not too distant future, TESS or another telescope will eventually overtake Kepler as the best planetary detector. More powerful telescopes will return more vivid and detailed images than Kepler did. Advances in computing will help scientists continue to filter planets from data collected after Kepler “departed”. Many new worlds will be discovered and the picture of our galaxy will become more and more detailed.
Kepler’s legacy is the continued expansion of our understanding of this layer of space. “Now, thanks to Kepler, what we know about the universe has changedsaid Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s astrophysics division. Kepler wasn’t the last planetary detector, but it was the first, and it provided the world with a new way to see our place in the universe.
“Kepler showed us that planets are ubiquitous and incredibly diverse. It changed the way we view the night sky.” –A quote from Jessie Dotson, Kepler Project Scientist, NASA.
According to Trithucvn