NASA Kepler Telescope Was Awoken From Its Nap and Is Back to Hunting Planets

Thursday, 06 September 2018 - 2:33PM
Space
Technology
Thursday, 06 September 2018 - 2:33PM
NASA Kepler Telescope Was Awoken From Its Nap and Is Back to Hunting Planets
< >
Image Credit: NASA
Wakey wakey eggs and bakey! Back in July, NASA's Kepler team placed their space telescope in sleep mode to make sure that the precious data it had been collecting on its 18th mission would make it back home to Earth. According to recent mission updates, the telescope's brief nap was ended and its data was successfully downloaded in early August, then Kepler got to catch some more shut eye. Yesterday, Kepler was nudged awake again so that it could start its 19th campaign, but it hasn't been all smooth sailing and hibernation for the little guy. 

Kepler launched back in March of 2009 on a mission that was supposed to last 3.5 years. With a few extensions and added campaigns, NASA has been able to confirm over 2,600 exoplanets. With the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) now on the job, you would think that it was time to retire Kepler. It may still be chugging along, but no really knows how much longer that it will last. "It is unclear how much fuel is still on board," the team wrote in its most-recent status update. "NASA is looking into the health of the spacecraft and determining a full range of options and next steps."

According to New Atlas, this isn't the first issue that they have had with the resilient machine. In 2013, two of the spacecraft's reaction wheels failed. The wheels were used to guide the telescope, so not having them in working condition was kind of a big deal and could have ended the mission for good. Luckily, NASA was able to guide Kepler using solar winds, which added another five years to its life. So far there is no real plan to keep Kepler alive if the fuel supply is depleted. On top of that, NASA reports that there has been some "unusual behavior" from one of Kepler's thrusters since its most recent awakening. It doesn't sound like the spacecraft will last much longer, but eight years is an impressive feat that has earned Kepler a proper eulogy, when the time comes.

Science
NASA
Space
Technology
No