NASA’s Kepler Just Woke Up, Ready to Hunt For More Planets

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Guess who’s up and running again?

NASA has announced on 5 September that their old planet-hunting spacecraft, Kepler, is now awake from its hibernation and sessions of repair, ready to scan the stars.

The spacecraft finished downloading data from the Campaign 19 at the end of August and then went into sleep mode. After a few weeks of beauty sleep, Kepler is up and running, wrote NASA in a press release:

“The Kepler spacecraft began collecting science data on Aug. 29 for its 19th observation campaign. After being roused from sleep mode, the spacecraft’s configuration has been modified due to the unusual behavior exhibited by one of the thrusters. Preliminary indications are that the telescope’s pointing performance may be somewhat degraded.”

As for how long will Kepler continue its work, NASA has no idea yet:

“It remains unclear how much fuel remains; NASA continues to monitor the health and performance of the spacecraft.”

Nine Years Of Looking For Other Planets

Even Kepler has done a lot of work and discovered almost 2.650 exoplanets until now; scientists want to continue discovering as many as possible until the spacecraft finally takes its last breath. The telescope was launched in 2009, and scientists expected to only last three and a half years, but nine years later, Kepler is still alive!

It’s been nine long years of bumpy work. Its reaction wheels failed in 2013, NASA trying to fix them, with no success and then used the thrusters to reposition it in the right direction. Back in March, the old telescope was coughing its last fuel supply, meaning that the 12 kilograms of fuel at launch time was close to exhaustion.

Kepler will remain without fuel, meaning it won’t be able to change its direction and look at other stars. However, it has a successor: TESS – the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which has been launched this year in April and is far better equipped than Kepler. TESS has already started her work in July, and it uses the same method as Kepler to find other worlds.


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