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Nasa's Kepler space telescope nearing end as fuel runs low

Nasa's Kepler space telescope nearing end as fuel runs low

TESS will search almost the entire sky for planets outside our solar system, focusing on the brightest stars less than 300 light-years away, and adding to Kepler's treasure trove of planet discoveries.

"With nary a gas station to be found in deep space, the spacecraft is going to run out of fuel", Charlie Sobeck, system engineer for the Kepler space telescope mission, wrote in an update this week.

In the apparatus runs out of fuel, and a few months the battery charge runs out. Due to the mechanical breakdowns, the Kepler space telescope will be blasted hitting cosmic rays. Plans have also been made to take some final calibration data with the last bit of fuel, if the opportunity presents itself. There is no fuel gauge to look at, and Kepler has not displayed any warning signs - like a drop in the performance of the thrusters - yet either. On Wednesday NASA looked back on the possible failure the telescope narrowly avoided in 2013, in which a second reaction wheel broke and skewed it away from the direction it was meant to view.

The extended mission requires the spacecraft to shift its field of view to new portions of the sky roughly every three months in what we refer to as a "campaign". Taking these measurements will help decide how long the team can comfortably keep collecting scientific data, NASA reported.

NASA says, Kepler has already completed 16 K2 missions and now working on 17th one.

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Interestingly, Kepler used the pressure of the sun to maintain its gaze, 'like a kayak steering into the current'. Short of a refueling mission sent from Earth, and the necessary onboard mechanism for the fuel transfer, there is pretty much no other way to do that for a spacecraft.

While astronomers, both amateur and professional, will be sad when Kepler finally does say goodbye, NASA scientists are excited about their next-generation planet hunter.

Kepler is now orbiting the Earth at a distance of 94 million miles, so NASA can't send a spacecraft to refuel.

However, Kepler blew NASA's expectations out of the water, when it completed an astonishing 16 campaigns.

Meanwhile, the next United States "hunter" of exoplanets, the Transition Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida on April 16th.

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