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Kepler: Nasa retires prolific telescope from planet hunting duties

Posted in Science on 17th Aug, 2013 03:08 AM by AlexMuller

The observatory lost the second of its four reaction wheels in May, meaning it can no longer hold completely steady as it looks towards the stars.


Nasa engineers have worked through a number of possible solutions but have failed to find one that will work.


Kepler has so far confirmed 135 planets beyond our Solar System.


But it still has more than 3,500 "candidates" in its database that have yet to be fully investigated, and the vast majority of these are expected to be confirmed as planets in due course.


The $600m (£395m) observatory was launched in March 2009 to try to find Earth-sized worlds orbiting their host stars in the so-called habitable zone. This is the region around a star where, given the right atmospheric conditions, temperatures would permit water to persist on a rocky surface in a liquid state. In essence, Kepler has been attempting to locate planets that have the best chance of supporting life.


The observatory has already identified a number of "super-Earths" (worlds slightly bigger than Earth) in stars' habitable zones, and mission scientists are confident they will soon be able to confirm the existence of further planets that enjoy even more Earth-like conditions.


"What we're looking for is a planet that's really Earth-sized around a star just like the Sun, and that's what we're hoping will be in this data that we have yet to fully analyse," explained Bill Borucki, the Kepler mission's principal investigator.

Read original article » Back to category


Author: Guest
Posted: 2013-08-17
NASA has too little funding now and it sounds as if they are going to get even less monies in the immediate future. They have a lot of problems. They have to hitchhike to get into space. The fees for that are being raised by the Russians and getting a crew there without the shuttles that had the arms to reach out for the satellite is going to be very hard.
2 Replies
Author: Guest
Posted: 2013-08-19
No, the Shuttle could *not* have grabbed Kepler! Each had different orbits. Shuttle was only 230 mi, sort of equatorial, and Kepler is sun-sync (90 degrees with respect to the equator!), with altitude 700 mi (not sure, but this is typical). Yes, Shuttle could reach HST back in the day, but HST was designed and launched with exactly this in mind. It would be like asking someone to run under a bridge carrying a motorway, and while they were there, wash the windscreen of passing cars. Physically not possible! -mw Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2013-08-17
Maybe they ought to swallow their pride and give Elon Musk of SpaceX a call. LOL Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2013-08-19
Just some facts here.

Kepler was quite an economical mission by current standards. Major science missions typically run to 2-3 bn!

It has performed an awesome job as far as it can (and most of the data are yet to be analysed fully back on Earth).

With dodgy attitude control, further results are negligible.

Retiring the mission will save money for other science projects.

Missions can be engineered to be repairable, but this costs extra. And needs a way of fetching it back, which nobody has. It's cheaper to build another one, or something better. In the case of planet-finding, something else like Kepler (e.g. ESA's GAIA) or something with ground-based telescopes.

- Matt Whyndham Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2013-08-19
The safe way to dispose of a s.c. that's got no useful function, is actively de-orbit, i.e. to use the thrusters to put it into a sinking orbit, and hence to burnup in the atmos. No debris, well, minimal anyway, and no hazard to others in orbit. I would be surprised if this isn't the imminent fate of Kepler. -mw Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2013-09-07
3gYunI Really informative article.Much thanks again. Reply


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