Rest In Space: NASA Officially Retires Kepler Telescope As It Runs Out of Fuel

Wednesday, 31 October 2018 - 11:59AM
Space
Technology
Wednesday, 31 October 2018 - 11:59AM
Rest In Space: NASA Officially Retires Kepler Telescope As It Runs Out of Fuel
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Kepler/NASA/JPL Caltech
It's a day we all knew was coming, but now that it is actually here we're a little sad about it. According to GizmodoNASA announced on Tuesday that the Kepler Space Telescope has officially been retired nearly a decade after its launch. 

Back in March we learned that Kepler was low on fuel, and because NASA doesn't have an interstellar AAA card, there was no real way to fill her up again. The exoplanet hunter stayed on the job for several months before being placed in sleep mode in July to ensure that the data it collected was not lost. NASA woke the craft up in September, then finally on October 30 the space agency announced that the time had come. "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," said Thomas Zurbuchen of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in a press release. "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."



In the announcement, NASA says that Kepler has been retired "within its current, safe orbit, away from Earth." That means that we don't have to worry about it crashing down into someone's barn in Wyoming, but the statement doesn't actually say what will happen to the dead telescope. Over the course of nine years, Kepler discovered thousands of exoplanets (2,327 confirmed), but the end of its life is only the beginning. In a tweet yesterday from the Kepler Twitter account, the team said that it was "officially passing the planet-hunting torch" to TESS (the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), which is expected to scan the skies to find significantly more planets in less time (and hopefully with less technical issues). 

"We know the spacecraft's retirement isn't the end of Kepler's discoveries," said Kepler's project scientist Jessie Dotson. "I'm excited about the diverse discoveries that are yet to come from our data and how future missions will build upon Kepler's results."
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