NASA, the Kepler Space Telescope, has discovered thousands of planets outside our solar system and has shown that our galaxy contains more planets than stars. Credit: CNASAredit: NASA Ames / JPL-Caltech
November 18, 2018 – On the evening of Thursday, November 15, NASA's Kepler Space Telescope received the final set of commands to disconnect communications from the Earth. The "good night" orders complete the spacecraft's transition to retirement, which began on October 30, announcing to NASA that Kepler was fuel-free and could no longer lead science.
Incidentally, Kepler's "good night" falls on the same date as the 388th anniversary of the death of his counterpart, German astronomer Johannes Kepler, who discovered the laws of the planetary movement and died on November 15, 1630.
The Kepler Space Telescope has had a profound impact on understanding the number of worlds beyond our solar system. Through our survey, we discovered that there are more planets than stars in our galaxy. As a farewell to the spacecraft, I asked some of Kepler's closest friends to reflect on what Kepler meant to them and finding him "more planets than stars."
The final commands were sent via NASA's Deep Space Network network from Kepler's Operations Center to the Atmospheric Physics and Space Physics Laboratory or at LASP at the University of Colorado in Boulder. LASP is conducting spacecraft operations on behalf of NASA and Ball Aerospace & Technologies in Boulder, Colorado.
Kepler's team has turned off security modes that could accidentally turn systems down, and may interrupt communications by stopping transmitters. As the spaceship rotates slowly, the Kepler team had to carefully finish its commands so that the instructions reach spacecraft in viable communications. The team will monitor the spacecraft to make sure the orders were successful. The spacecraft is now moving in a safe orbit around the Sun, 94 million miles away from Earth.
Kepler data collected over more than nine years of operation will be exploited for interesting discoveries for many years to come.
NASA, the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, manages the Kepler and K2 missions for the NASA Scientific Missions Division. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, led the development of the Kepler mission. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation operates the flight system with LASP support.
For more information on the Kepler mission, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/kepler