Big NASA Space Missions Ended This Week, But Don't Panic

NASA image of Kepler

Kepler is dead. Now what

While spacecraft operations have ceased, its data will continue to be publicly available through the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST) at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Residing about 500 light years away, Kepler-186f resides within the hospitable zone of its orbit around its star, and could be a very strong candidate for having conditions suitable for extraterrestrial life.

Kepler was originally positioned to watch 150,000 stars in a patch of sky within the constellation Cygnus. Before the mission, our knowledge of planets outside our solar system that orbit a star was woefully lacking. The second phase of Kepler's mission was called K2 and the discoveries in this extended mission further improved our understanding of planets and planetary systems.

Kepler may no longer be for this world (or any other world), but the space telescope's discoveries will extend further beyond the end of its mission.

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But the mission was not without its hiccups - in 2013, mechanical failures stopped Kepler's observations.

"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", said NASA Science Mission Directorate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen.

The Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes or MAST at the Space Telescope Science Institute will make the data accumulated over almost a decade of deep space observation available to the public.

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The US space agency's Kepler space telescope has run out of fuel and is being retired after nine and a half years, having helped discover more than 2,600 planets, some of which may hold life, officials said Tuesday. Scientists are expected to spend a decade or more in search of new discoveries in the treasure trove of data Kepler provided. NASA has chose to retire the spacecraft within its current, safe orbit, away from Earth. TESS will become the newest exoplanet hunter NASA will use to continue to survey the sky and discover new worlds.

NASA's Astrophysics Explorer Program has selected the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) Mission to fly in 2017. In the years since, astronomers have used Kepler observations to discover 2,818 exoplanets as well as another 2,679 exoplanet ...

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has gone silent, ending a historic mission that studied time capsules from the solar system's earliest chapter.

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