One of NASA's most powerful space telescopes is running out of fuel

Kepler Space Telescope

Kepler space telescope, through which scientists were able to detect 2 245 exoplanets (and 2 342 unconfirmed) will be able to work only a few months.

Kepler is now orbiting the Earth at a distance of 94 million miles, so NASA can't send a spacecraft to refuel.

Kepler is now being monitored for warning signs of low fuel, such as a drop in the fuel tank's pressure and changes in the performance of the thrusters.

The space agency will cuddle Kepler as much as possible over its last few months of working and retrieve all the possible information before it destroys itself.

The biggest challenge during Kepler's mission came in 2013 when its primary mission ended when a second reaction wheel broke. The spacecraft was given a new lease on life by using the pressure of sunlight to maintain its pointing, like a kayak steering into the current.

The extended mission requires the spacecraft to shift its field of view to new portions of the sky roughly every three months in what we refer to as a "campaign".

However, since the Kepler is impossible to get a refueling spacecraft, NASA engineers will collect as many data as possible until the Kepler Space Telescope will remain without fuel. But in the end, we only have an estimate - not precise knowledge.

In December, Kepler turned back to take a photograph of Earth, the bright smear across the right side of the image.

The fuel is needed to aim the telescope at the Earth for data transfer. Taking these measurements will help decide how long the team can comfortably keep collecting scientific data, NASA reported. The mission has already completed 16 campaigns, and this month entered its 17.

That said, NASA will also exercise caution, as it doesn't want to have an 'uncontrolled fall to the ground'.

Last September, NASA sent the Cassini space craft on a "death dive" into Saturn, rather than risk it falling into one of the planet's moons, the agency explained.

Even though Kepler will eventually reach the end of its life, Sobeck pointed out that all hope isn't lost. As for the next generation, it will soon be provided by TESS, whose launch is scheduled for Cape Canaveral on April 16th.

Kepler has been in flight for nine years, examining distant stars in search of planets outside the Solar System.



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