NASA calls time on Kepler repair

Scientists give up trying to restore Kepler to full working order

Credit: NASA/Kepler mission/Wendy Stenzel

The planet hunting space scope will serve a different purpose in the future. 

By Kieron Allen

Since the failure of two of Kepler’s four reaction wheels, used to plot its position in space, NASA engineers have been attempting to restore the space scope to full working order. That attempt has now come to an end, and the search is on to find a new use for the veteran space observatory.

After completing its primary operations in November 2012, Kepler’s planet hunting mission was extended to 2016. But after the second of the wheels failed in May – Kepler needs three functioning wheels to work effectively – the search was abandoned.

Although astronomers still have a vast amount of existing data to sift through, the team are on the hunt for a another scientific use for the space scope using the remaining 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. "Knowing that Kepler has successfully collected all the data from its prime mission, I am confident that more amazing discoveries are on the horizon."

The next step for the Kepler team is to perform a fresh study identifying the science opportunities for a two-wheel Kepler mission. The study should be completed by the end of the year.


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