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Kepler - Our Great Space Observatory Cannot Be Repaired

17 August, 2013


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MessageToEagle.com - The Kepler Space Telescope team is ending its attempts to restore the spacecraft to full working order. Our great space observatory cannot be repaired.

Two of Kepler's four gyroscope-like reaction wheels, which are used to precisely point the spacecraft, have failed.

The first was lost in July 2012, and the second in May. Engineers' efforts to restore at least one of the wheels have been unsuccessful.


An artist's interpretation of the Kepler observatory in space. NASA


As scientists analyze previously collected data, the Kepler team also is looking into whether the space telescope can conduct a different type of science program, including an exoplanet search, using the remaining two good reaction wheels and thrusters.

"Kepler has made extraordinary discoveries in finding exoplanets including several super-Earths in the habitable zone," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

"Knowing that Kepler has successfully collected all the data from its prime mission, I am confident that more amazing discoveries are on the horizon."

From the data collected in the first half of its mission, Kepler has confirmed 135 exoplanets and identified over 3,500 candidates.

On Aug. 8, engineers conducted a system-level performance test to evaluate Kepler's current capabilities. They determined wheel 2, which failed last year, can no longer provide the precision pointing necessary for science data collection.

Kepler spacecraft is approximately 40 million miles (64 million km) from Earth, too far away for astronaut or a robotic-led repair mission.

The spacecraft was returned to its point rest state, which is a stable configuration where Kepler uses thrusters to control its pointing with minimal fuel use.

The team continues to analyze all four years of collected data, expecting hundreds, if not thousands, of new discoveries including the long-awaited Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of sun-like stars.

Though the spacecraft will no longer operate with its unparalleled precision pointing, scientists expect Kepler's most interesting discoveries are still to come.

The second Kepler Science Conference which will take place on Nov. 4-8, at NASA's Ames Research Center will give an opportunity to share not only the investigations of the Kepler project team, but also those of the wider science community using publicly accessible data from Kepler.

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