NASA Puts its Planet Exploring Spacecraft Kepler to Sleep Mode

The Kepler Space Telescope which helped NASA learn about the number and frequency of planets in our galaxy is almost out of fuel. NASA in a statement said it put the planet exploration spacecraft into a ‘hibernation’ safe mode and that a plan to reactivate it could burn whatever fuel remains.

Kepler is a 2009 ventured Space Telescope spacecraft that have found an abundance of planets outside our solar system.  To many delights, scientists using Kepler which is some 94 million miles away from Earth has scanned a small section of our galactic neighborhood, but its efforts have led scientists to discover 2,650 confirmed planets so far. The planets come in all sizes and shapes and range from Jupiter like big and weird sized planet that orbit a binary star system to the ones that are closer in size and orbit to Earth.

NASA says it plans to turn Kepler back to Earth in August when it will order the spacecraft to point its antenna at Earth to download the data from its most recent survey of the sky. But it’s not clear if there is enough fuel to do the transfer. The maneuvers required to point the antenna toward spacecraft are the most fuel-intensive tasks that the spacecraft performs and at any point, Kepler’s fuel tank may run dry. NASA knew that one day Kepler would run out of fuel so NASA plans to start a 19th discrete “observation campaign” of ‘K2’ mission. With K2 mission the agency originally forecasts being able to squeeze just 10 observation campaigns out of what was left in the tank. So now, NASA says returning the data back to Earth is the highest priority for the remaining fuel.