Finally, its the goodbye time for the most prolific planet hunting telescope ever, The Kepler Space Telescope. Yes, you read it right! After nine years of successful expedition, NASA has decided to retire its famed Kepler Space Telescope, as it completely ran out of fuel needed to keep it alive further for future survey of deep space.
Named after astronomer Johannes Kepler, this planet hunter has discovered more than 2600 planets till date. This planet hunter was launched on March 7, 2009, into an Earth-trailing heliocentric orbit. The spacecraft had a mass of about 1,039 kilograms and contained a Schmidt camera with a 0.95-meter front lens, feeding a 1.4-meter primary mirror. You know what, at the time of its launch, this was the largest mirror on any telescope outside Earth orbit, though this title was taken over a few months later by Herschel Space Observatory .
The heart of this telescope was its photometer which had a soft
focus to provide excellent photometry, rather than sharp images.During its lifetime, The probe’s camera has measured changes in the brightness of 150,000 stars in one patch of sky to identifying the alien planets, including ones that could potentially be inhabited by humans. It has also documented about 61 supernovae.On the whole, it collected about 678GB of data. "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 Thomas Zurbuchen, the Associate Administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC
Kepler has been running low on fuel for months, and mission managers put the spacecraft to sleep several times recently to extend its operational life as much as possible. But, Kepler's tank finally went dry two weeks ago and there was nothing that could be done further to increase its lifetime. Hence, NASA finally had to bid adieu to it for ever.Though the planned duration of this mission was only three and a half years, but the braveheart successfully survived for 9 years,7 months and 23 days! Contrary to the dramatic end faced by Cassini, Kepler will calmly shut down its radio transmitter and onboard fault-protection systems, consequently becoming an inert chunk of metal that will wander silently in the cold, dark depths of space. The total price tag for Kepler will end up being a whooping $700 millions.
"Basically, Kepler opened the gate for Mankind's exploration of the cosmos" This was stated by Bill Borucki, who was mission's founding principal investigator. Kepler definitely gave us a new way of looking towards the cosmos. By confirming that the space is congested with planets, some of them being like earth, it hinted that we might not be all alone in this Universe. Spooky !
So, Goodbye KST, you will be missed and your contributions to the deep space exploration will never be forgotten !