"Alien Life Payload?" NASA's Kepler Spacecraft Downloads Exoplanet Science Data

NASA Readies to Extract Data as Kepler Runs'Very Low on Fuel

"Alien Life Payload?" NASA's Kepler Spacecraft Downloads Exoplanet Science Data

Kepler Space Telescope of NASA, the spaceship which has found numerous exoplanets since the time it entered in space in 2009, is into the last phase of its working.

"To bring the data home, the spacecraft must point its large antenna back to Earth and transmit the data during its allotted Deep Space Network time, which is scheduled in early August", NASA officials wrote in a statement.

The fuel situation doesn't come as a big surprise; NASA announced in March that Kepler was running low and would likely have to cease operations in a matter of months. On 2 August, the ground team will commandeer the spacecraft and awaken it from hibernation and manoeuvre it to the correct orientation to begin the downlink of data.

As per NASA, the spaceship will be into its hibernation mode until August, and will use the Deep Space Network of NASA to send the data gathered during campaign back to Earth. Once Kepler finally cease to function it will partly replace TESS space telescope, created to search for planets around other stars. It is now making observations toward the constellation Cancer which it previously studied in 2015. The highest priority for Kepler's remaining fuel is to return the data back to Earth.

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During its primary mission, Kepler stared at about 150,000 stars simultaneously, hunting for promising transits. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. If that is successful, they plan to start a 19th observation campaign with the remaining fuel.

NASA has already launched Kepler's successor, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, which will also hunt for exoplanets. "Given that most stars in our galaxy are part of a binary system, this means the opportunities for life are much broader than if planets form only around single stars", explained William Borucki from the Kepler Space Telescope science team.

The spacecraft was given a new lease on life by using the pressure of sunlight to maintain its pointing, like a kayak steering into the current.

Kepler continues to search for exoplanets during K2, but it's studying a variety of other celestial objects and phenomena as well. "In 2014, after getting a "'new lease on life", NASA gave the spacecraft a new mission, dubbed "K2.'This required the spacecraft to shift its orientation every three months to get a new view of the sky.

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