Kepler planet-hunter retires

This illustration made available by NASA shows the Kepler Space

Scientists will continue to search for planets using the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched earlier this year, the James Webb Space Telescope now scheduled for launch in 2021, and future spacecraft.

"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", Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in DC, said in the NASA statement. Overall, the NASA space telescope discovered over 2,600 Earth-like exoplanets, some of which may host alien life.

For 9 years, a car-size telescope in space called Kepler has dutifully stared down more than half a million stars.

Kepler was launched in March 2009 with enough fuel to keep it going for at least six years, according to The Verge. "Many are still hiding in the data, ready to be discovered", said Susan Mullally, a scientist working on the Kepler mission at STScI. But the telescope has now run out of the fuel needed for further operations, leading to its retirement. In this century, the number of known exoplanets has exploded in size, mainly due to this spacecraft, NASA's Kepler space telescope, which was specifically designed as a planet-hunter.

Kepler's scientific contributions - and Earth-trailing solar orbit - ensure it will always have a place in the sun.

The end of Kepler comes at the same time as two other NASA space telescopes, Hubble and Chandra, have experienced problems, but Hertz stressed it is all coincidental. And in 2017 "Kepler" found "assosolare system" of the eight planets just like ours (after Pluto was demoted and transferred to the category of dwarf planets). "Kepler's nine-and-a-half year flight was more than twice the original target".

"When we started conceiving this mission 35 years ago, we didn't know of a single planet outside our solar system", said the Kepler mission's founding principal investigator, William Borucki, now retired from NASA's Ames Research Centre in California's Silicon Valley. It showed us rocky worlds the size of Earth that, like Earth, might harbor life. The distinction helped scientists zero in on potential Earth-like planets and better the odds for finding life.

"Now that we know planets are everywhere, Kepler has set us on a new course that's full of promise for future generations to explore our Galaxy".

Four years into the mission, after the primary mission objectives had been met, mechanical failures temporarily halted observations. Once the fix was made, NASA approved a new mission for the spacecraft, dubbed K2.

Unlike stars, planets do not emit light, so look for them much harder. Kepler watched the very beginning of exploding stars, or supernovae, to gain unprecedented insight about stars and witnessed the death of a solar system.

"While this may be a sad event, we are by no means unhappy with the performance of this marvellous machine", NASA project system engineer Charlie Sobeck said.

NASA has experienced a series of spacecraft problems lately. "These results will form the basis for future searches for life".

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