Famed planet-hunting spacecraft is dead. Now what?
Astronomers are building instruments that can characterize the many alien worlds the Kepler spacecraft revealed—and look for signs of life.
One of Earth’s most venerable planet-hunters, NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, has gone quiet. Today, the space agency announced that after nearly a decade of staring at the stars, Kepler is out of fuel. Now, the spacecraft will stay in its Earth-trailing orbit, looping around the sun and never coming closer than a million miles from home.
“NASA’s original planet hunter, the Kepler space telescope, has run out of fuel,” Paul Hertz, NASA’s Astrophysics Division director, announced today during a press conference. “This is not unexpected, and this marks the end of spacecraft operations for Kepler and the end of the collection of science data.”
To say Kepler revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos is no overstatement: The mission showed us