NASA's Kepler receives 'goodnight' command; Is exoplanet-hunting mission over?

The Kepler space telescope, which had already discovered almost thousands of new planets, ran out of fuel and couldn't continue its science observations. So, the American space agency NASA had to say the final 'goodnight' to its trusty telescope. But what about exoplanet-hunting?

As stated by NASA, on Thursday evening, Kepler received its final set of commands to disconnect communications with earth. The final command 'goodnight' finalize the spacecraft's transition into retirement.

The space telescope was launched on March 7, 2009. The final command was sent over NASA's Deep Space Network from Kepler's operations centre at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory explained that what they had to do officially to send cut off all the communications that are actually a bit complicated than just flipping a switch.

In a post, JPL stated, "Kepler's team disabled the safety modes that could inadvertently turn systems back on, and severed communications by shutting down the transmitters. Because the spacecraft is slowly spinning, the Kepler team had to carefully time the commands so that instructions would reach the spacecraft during periods of viable communication. The team will monitor the spacecraft to ensure that the commands were successful. The spacecraft is now drifting in a safe orbit around the Sun, 94 million miles away from Earth."

Since its launch, Kepler made so many incredible finds that it's hard to accept that its time is over now.

James Webb Space Telescope Mirror Seen in Full Bloom
James Webb Space Telescope Mirror Seen in Full Bloom NASA/Desiree Stover

But it doesn't mean that NASA's exoplanet-hunting mission is over, as the space agency is confident about the findings by James Webb Space Telescope in near future. The JWST is scheduled to launch in 2021. The scientists have already completed the integration of the telescope onto the spacecraft Element In September 2018.

Alberto Noriega-Crespo of the Space Telescope Science Institute stated that NASA's Webb telescope "has higher sensitivity and higher angular resolution at long infrared wavelengths than anything we could do previously. Webb will answer questions we can't answer from the ground."

This article was first published on November 19, 2018
Related topics : Exoplanet Space