The most accomplished planet-hunting machine of all time will look for new strange worlds and no more.
NASA dismantled the Kepler space telescope last night (November 15), transmitting "good night" commands to the solar orbiting observatory.
This official final is not surprising. NASA announced on October 30 that Kepler's scientific work was done, because the spacecraft was left without fuel. The members of the mission team said then that the dismantling commands were likely to be sent in a few weeks. [Kepler’s 7 Greatest Exoplanet Discoveries]
"The Kepler team has deactivated the security modes that could return the systems inadvertently and cut communications by closing the transmitters," NASA officials wrote today (November 16). "Because the spacecraft is slowly turning, the Kepler team had to carefully take care of the commands so that the instructions arrived at the ship during periods of viable communication."
The final commands were sent from Kepler's operations center at the Atmospheric and Space Physics Laboratory at the University of Colorado Boulder, NASA officials said. The commandos arrived at the ship through the deep space network of NASA, the system of large radio dishes used by the space agency to keep in touch with remote sensors.
The $ 700 million Kepler mission was launched in March 2009, in charge of determining how common Earth planets are along the Milky Way galaxy. The spacecraft found alien worlds through the "transit method," observing the small brightness dangers caused when the planets crossed the faces of the star of the server.
Kepler first performed this work looking at more than 150,000 stars simultaneously. Then, in 2013, the second of four space-orientation maintenance reaction wheels failed, ending the original mission. Kepler went on to a new mission called K2 in 2014, after team members discovered how to stabilize the observatory with the help of sunshine.
Kepler discovered 2,682 exoplanets to date, 355 of which were found during phase K2. That large total represents about 70 percent of all known alien worlds. And there will be more discoveries of Kepler: about 2,900 "candidates" observed during the original mission and K2 await their confirmation by observations or follow-up analyzes and history suggests that most of these will be the true business.
Kepler can not be reloaded viable and returned to action. The spacecraft orbits the sun, not the Earth, and is currently about 94 million kilometers (151 million kilometers) of our planet.
Mike Wall's book on the search for alien life "Out there"(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate) is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us @ Spacedotcom ou Facebook. Originally Posted in Space.com.