Well, NASA's crippled Kepler space telescope, launched in 2009, is officially beyond repair. Two of the four wheels used to align the telescope have failed over the past year, and NASA engineers haven't been able to get either of them working again. NASA announced today that attempts to fully restore the spacecraft have ceased.
This may not spell the total end of Kepler's mission, though. NASA will still try to figure out a way to use the spacecraft for whatever scientific research it can manage in its current condition, with one reaction wheel short of a workable set. The agency put out a call for scientific white papers proposing alternate uses for Kepler a few weeks ago.
Kepler was originally designed to hunt for Earth-sized exoplanets in the galaxy, and during its initial four-year mission, it found more than 100. Its mission was extended in April 2012, and scientists are still sorting through all the data it has sent back in the meantime.
Exactly why the more powerful JWST needs to be up there... what's the status with that thing, btw?
While Kepler was design to look far away, perhaps it may do well just to look very close, say the Earth and moon. Who knows, we may learn something new with unique viewing perspective.
Why don't we just send up a couple of astronauts to go fix it in the successor to the space shuttle?
Oh, wait, that's right, Congress is why.
The Kepler Space Telescope is not in Earth orbit. The Space Shuttle could not reach it. Our manned space program needed a kick in the pants, because the Shuttle was far too expensive for what we got. We should have three different manned space craft available to us in a couple of years.
@lawsonrw, the James Webb is not build to search for earth-like planets like Kepler. Its build to perform long, more detailed investigations of specific targets. Including possible planets. But currently we still have the European HARPS instrument which has found just as many confirmed planets as Kepler and because it's on earth it will continue to make discoveries for years or even decades to come. Then we have the same ESO organisation working on a far more powerful version then HARPS called ESPRESSO (no joke). It should go online in 2015 or 16.
But what really interests me is the European Spave Agency is going to lauch GAIA 2 months from now. A spacecraft that could find tens of thousands of planets. Far exceeding Kepler. But we have to wait a few years for big results.
And in 2016/2017 both ESA and NASA will lauch new spacecraft to study closeby discovered alien worlds in more detail.
We also some 40% of data from Kepler not studied yet so possible allowing some more cool planets to be found.
Why doesn't NASA launch a small satellite with micro thrusters and a new set of reaction wheels that can attach itself to the exterior of Kepler with magnets or clamps?
D'Oh! There you go, making a cost effective common sense solution. Now you know that will never do, lol.
A rocket held tight this telescope as it was launched into space, so yes this telescope does has places to grab onto, if guidance device was flown to it for new controlling.
I assume it's because Kepler has already outlived it's life expectancy. Also as somebody else pointed out, there are better telescopes out there already so why fix the antiquated version.
JWST will be launched eventually, but it is still far from being flight-ready. And unfortunately, the JWST program is also way over budget. While JWST will be the most powerful astronomical instrument ever created, by the time it finally becomes operational the technology will be more than a decade old.
Yeah, that's a big problem. By the time these things make it out of the factory they're already out of date technology.
Not using Linux, eh?