After nine years of gathering valuable space data for NASA, the Kepler Space Telescope is now officially retiring from service.
On Tuesday, NASA announced the retirement of the Kepler Space Telescope after nine years of collecting deep space data. The announcement follows the recent news of the Kepler going into automatic “sleep mode.”
After using up all its fuel, the planet-hunting spacecraft is currently in a safe orbit nearly 100 million miles away from Earth.
“As NASA’s first planet-hunting mission, Kepler has wildly exceeded all our expectations and paved the way for our exploration and search for life in the solar system and beyond,” Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement.
“Not only did it show us how many planets could be out there, it sparked an entirely new and robust field of research that has taken the science community by storm. Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars.”
Thank you, Kepler Space Telescope
NASA originally launched the telescope in 2009 for a one-year planet-hunting mission. However, the success of its first campaign led the agency to extend its operation until the spacecraft began to run out of fuel.
The unmanned space telescope significantly pushed the boundaries of our knowledge of the universe. Kepler’s exploration of deep space revealed billions of previously unknown alien worlds hidden from our eyes.
In its nine years in space, Kepler helped scientists spot potential planets by observing transits, or the moment when a space object passes in front of a star. Overall, the NASA space telescope discovered over 2,600 Earth-like exoplanets, some of which may host alien life.
“When we started conceiving this mission 35 years ago we didn’t know of a single planet outside our solar system,” William Borucki, Kepler mission’s retired founding principal investigator, went on to say. “Now that we know planets are everywhere, Kepler has set us on a new course that’s full of promise for future generations to explore our galaxy.”
While Kepler may have reached the end of its journey, its contribution to NASA’s search for other Earth-like worlds will continue. The latest data from the Kepler Space Telescope’s last mission, Campaign 19, will be used together with the data gathered by its replacement, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite.
NASA launched the TESS last April. Like its predecessor, it will roam space in search of planets orbiting around 200,000 of our galaxy’s brightest stars.