NASA bids goodbye to planet-hunting Kepler space telescope

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It will slowly start drifting further away from Earth when the NASA engineers switch off the radio transmitters on it, informed NASA.

95MP camera Thomas Zurbuchen from NASA's Science Mission Directorate said in an administration release that Kepler had "wildly exceeded" expectations, and paved the way for the future search for extra-terrestrial life.

Nasa's new space observatory, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or Tess, has already taken up the search for planets in the nearby cosmos, and giant telescopes both on the ground and in space are being created to detect and observe exoplanets - planets that circle stars outside our solar system. It has also helped discover the first ever moon to be present beyond our solar system. Scientists will spend "a decade or more in search of new discoveries in the treasure trove of data Kepler provided".

Kepler showed us that "we live in a galaxy that's teeming with planets, and we're ready to take the next step to explore those planets", she said. It was meant to last for three and a half years and ended up sticking around for nearly 10.

Four years into the Kepler mission, after the primary mission objectives had been met, mechanical failures temporarily halted observations. Kepler launched into an Earth-trailing heliocentric (sun-centered) orbit in 2009. "It was an extremely clever approach to doing this kind of science", said Leslie Livesay, director for astronomy and physics at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who served as Kepler project manager during mission development.

Kepler's nine-and-a-half-year flight was more than twice as long as originally planned.

The spacecraft discovered more than 2,899 exoplanet candidates and 2,681 confirmed exoplanets in our galaxy, revealing that our solar system isn't the only home for planets.

Kepler's more powerful follow-on mission, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is already in operation.

Researchers working on TESS expect to find at least 50 rocky, Earth-size worlds for scientists to scrutinize - perhaps double what Kepler has found.

Scientists will continue to search for planets using the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched earlier this year, the James Webb Space Telescope now scheduled for launch in 2021, and future spacecraft.

NASA launched the TESS last April.

All the data Kepler collected has now been safely returned to Earth. In this century, the number of known exoplanets has exploded in size, mainly due to this spacecraft, NASA's Kepler space telescope, which was specifically designed as a planet-hunter.

Officials announced the Kepler Space Telescope's demise Tuesday. This light would allow astronomers to take the spectrum of a planet and look for signs of habitability - and life.

"Kepler opened the gate for mankind's exploration of the cosmos", said retired NASA scientist William Borucki, who led the original Kepler science team.

"We know the spacecraft's retirement isn't the end of Kepler's discoveries", said Jessie Dotson, Kepler's project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.

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