It’s had a good run, but it seems like NASA’s Kepler telescope is down for the count — the space agency says it has stopped repair efforts. The 0.95 meter diameter space telescope launched four years ago, tasked with seeking out Earth-sized planets suitable for habitation. All was going well until the rig’s gyroscopic reaction wheels began to fail, robbing it of the precision aim needed to continue its task. After months of testing, NASA has concluded that it won’t be able to restore the telescope to full working order.
That doesn’t mean the mission is at an end, however — NASA still has to sort troves of previously collected data, thumbing through over 3,500 exoplanet candidates to add to the 135 celestial bodies Kepler has already identified. The hardware may one day see a second life too, as engineers attempt to assess what can be done with the remaining two reaction wheels and the telescope’s attitude control thrusters. Without significant (and now abandoned) repair efforts, Kepler will never be precise enough to continue its primary mission, but NASA is hopeful it will eventually find a new purpose.
Filed under: Misc