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11 July 2018, 08:40 | Edward Lowe
"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 today. The space agency declared that they want to save whatever fuel remains, so past Monday they put the spacecraft into a hibernation safe mode.
On August 2, NASA will wake-up Kepler and maneuver the spacecraft to begin transmission of the latest data.
NASA in a report said that once all the data is downloaded, Kepler will be switched on again to continue its observations till it eventually runs out of fuel.
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Until now, Kepler discovered much information about the nature of the space outside our solar system, finding hot gas giants close to their stars, discovering binary star systems, red dwarfs orbited by rocky worlds and even a planet that looks like ours.
Since May 12, Kepler has been on its 18th observation campaign, staring at a patch of sky towards the constellation of Cancer it previously studied in 2015. For now, that's the team's highest priority. Most notable, in 2013, a malfunctioned reaction wheel on the spacecraft prevented it from being stable required NASA to readjust the mission for the Kepler. The data from this mission will help astronomers to confirm previous exoplanet candidates, as well as find any new candidates.
NASA's Kepler mission has discovered a world where two suns set over the horizon instead of just one. The decision to put Kepler into the hibernation-like state was due to a recent "indication" that it is "very low" on fuel. If this is successful, they plan to start a new campaign for the observation of exoplanets with the remaining fuel.
The Kepler space telescope, which is now 94 million miles away from Earth, has survived many potential knock-outs during its nine years in flight, from mechanical failures to being blasted by cosmic rays.
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.
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