The Kepler space telescope of NASA which discovered 2,700 exoplanets distant star systems is now officially retired after running out of fuel.
When it was launched in 2009, it was equipped with the largest digital camera outfitted for outer space observations at that time and scientists on Earth has very limited knowledge of planets beyond the reach of the solar system – NASA
There was a lot of malfunction that happened with steering and dwindling hydrazine fuel levels costing $600 million spacecraft which stayed in action almost for nine years and with 19 observation campaigns which are longer than its original four-year mission.
Kepler is at the verge and waiting for the command which would come in the next two weeks that will deactivate its transmitter and instruments after which it will drift in a safe orbit trailing the Earth.
In 2012 scientists were worried when there were some irreparable rendered happened with the spacecraft were ineffective steering malfunction in 2012 but fortunately, they came up with an ingenious solution in 2013 by using the pressure which is generated by ray’s of the sun for a failed reaction wheel. 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.
One of the eight thrusters had shown unreliable performance, but the team estimated that simply removing the thruster from use during precision pointing firings could result in acceptable system performance, As a result, the changes were made and Campaign 19 was, as it were, joined in progress. – Alison Hawkes, NASA Ames Research Center spokesperson
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Kepler also experienced thrusters around the time when it began its 19th observation campaign in late August 2018 and then went into sleep mode, though was able to get it back online in September this year.
Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in DC 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, not only did it show us how many planets could be out there, it sparked an entirely new and robust field of research that has taken the science community by storm. Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars.”
Paul Hertz, NASA astrophysics division director said, “Now, because of Kepler, what we think about the universe has changed, Kepler opened the gate for the exploration of the cosmos.”
The successor of the telescope is far more powerful Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) which was launched in 2018 April a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and is projected to discover over 20,000 new exoplanets. James Webb Space Telescope will join TESS which is a mess at this time but is supposed to be launched in 2021. So now it’s time to bid Goodbye to Kepler.