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Technology NASA's Kepler Space Telescope Is Running Out of Fuel and May Not Have Much More Time

11:41  08 july  2018
11:41  08 july  2018 Source:   gizmodo.com

NASA Reveals Amazing 'Celestial Fireworks' Image

  NASA Reveals Amazing 'Celestial Fireworks' Image The image was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.The stars reside in the center of a nebula—a vast cloud of interstellar gas and dust—known as NGC 3603, located around 20,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Carina. In the central region of this nebula is a huge cluster of young, hot stars.

NASA Completes Webb Telescope Review, Commits to Launch in Early 2021. Cassini Finds Massive Organic Molecules in Enceladus’ Plumes. After almost a decade in space , Kepler is expected to run out of fuel within the next few months.

NASA ’ s storied Kepler Space Telescope —the craft which has discovered thousands of exoplanets since its launch in 2009—is entering the retirement phase of its lifespan. NASA announced on Friday that Kepler staff had “received an indication that the spacecraft fuel tank is running very low” and

a satellite in space © Photo: NASA (AP)

NASA’s storied Kepler Space Telescope—the craft which has discovered thousands of exoplanets since its launch in 2009—is entering the retirement phase of its lifespan. NASA announced on Friday that Kepler staff had “received an indication that the spacecraft fuel tank is running very low” and “placed the spacecraft in a hibernation-like state in preparation to download the science data collected in its latest observation campaign.”

Kepler suffered a mechanical malfunction with its steering system in 2013, forcing scientists to develop a clever alternate plan in which they used pressure from the sun’s rays to act as a stand-in for one of its failed reaction wheels. This new phase, called K2, is imperfect, and NASA originally believed it would only allow for 10 observation campaigns with the remaining fuel. Yet it works, and allows Kepler to observe patches of space for roughly 83 days at a time. Per NASA, while the original Kepler mission discovered 2,244 candidate exoplanets and 2,327 confirmed exoplanets, the extended K2 mission has managed to identify 479 candidates and confirm 323 others. The craft is currently on its 18th K2 observation campaign.

NASA put Kepler to sleep to preserve its remaining fuel

  NASA put Kepler to sleep to preserve its remaining fuel NASA announced today that the Kepler spacecraft, which has been searching for distant Earth-like planets near Sun-like stars, is running very low on fuel. So much so, that it has decided to put Kepler in a sleep mode to preserve fuel over the next few weeks. Back in March, the agency warned that this could happen soon and on Monday, the Kepler team observed a drop in the spacecraft's fuel pressure, indicating a very low fuel level. So for now, Kepler won't conduct any more scientific observations and will instead rest until August 2nd when research it has collected over the last 51 days is scheduled to be downloaded.

But Kepler is now running low on gas. "With nary a gas station to be found in deep space , the spacecraft is going to run out of fuel ," Charlie Sobeck, the system engineer for the Kepler space telescope mission, said in a NASA statement.

Credit: NASA . The Kepler space telescope ' s prolific planet-hunting days will end soon. After finding more than 2,300 confirmed planets across its two missions, Kepler is low on fuel and will run out within several months, according to NASA engineers.

NASA is unable to determine the exact amount of fuel left within Kepler, as there is no onboard gas gauge. However, since it is in deep space trailing the Earth’s orbit at roughly 94 million miles away, and there is no risk of it hitting another potentially life-bearing astronomical body such as an icy moon, the agency is free to keep working the spacecraft until it gives up and dies.

According to NASA, Kepler staff have put the craft into hibernation mode until August, when the plan to turn it back on and use NASA’s Deep Space Network to transfer mission data back to Earth. If that is successful, they plan to start a 19th observation campaign with the remaining fuel.

As it turns out, Kepler has discovered key insights about the unique nature of our stellar neighborhood, which have included blazing-hot gas giants in perilous proximity to their host stars, binary star systems, and red dwarfs orbited by numerous rocky worlds. It’s also found a planet that uncannily mirrors many of Earth’s characteristics. While it is still in limited operation, NASA has already launched a successor, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, which sent back an incredible image of thousands of stars in March 2018.

[NASA via the Verge]

SpaceX is one step closer to launching astronauts into space .
This week, SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule arrived at Cape Canaveral, Florida after completing thermal vacuum and acoustic testing. This means the spacecraft is one step closer to its first launch, which will be an uncrewed test mission to the International Space Station. Demonstration Mission-1, or DM-1, is currently scheduled for sometime next month. Crew Dragon arrived in Florida this week ahead of its first flight after completing thermal vacuum and acoustic testing at @NASA's Plum Brook Station in Ohio. https://t.co/xXJE8TjcTrpic.twitter.com/lr0P95zzIK— SpaceX (@SpaceX) July 12, 2018Whether SpaceX and NASA can stick to this schedule remains to be seen.

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