The U.S. space agency says those final commands were to disconnect communications with mission control and Earth. In a strange coincidence, NASA says it issued Kepler’s “goodnight commands” on the same date the telescope’s namesake, German astronomer Johannes Kepler, died on back in 1630.
This final command was expected to be issued, as NASA announced back in late October that its long-tenured telescope had run out of fuel about 94 million miles from Earth. The space agency says the telescope was retired while on a “safe orbit, away from Earth.”
Some of the space telescope’s main accomplishments include its 9.6 years spent in space observing more than 530,500 stars, documenting 61 supernovae and discovering 2,662 new planets. The U.S. space agency says that many of these planets discovered by the Kepler “could be promising places for life.”
“Kepler’s team disabled the safety modes that could inadvertently turn systems back on, and severed communications by shutting down the transmitters,” NASA reports on its website.
“Because the spacecraft is slowly spinning, the Kepler team had to carefully time the commands so that instructions would reach the spacecraft during periods of viable communication. The team will monitor the spacecraft to ensure that the commands were successful.”
Other Kepler findings include the discovery that 20 to 50 percent of visible stars are likely to have “small, possibly rocky, planets similar in size to Earth” located in the habitable zones of their parent stars.
The telescope launched in 2009 with the main goal of finding how common planets outside of Earth’s solar system are.
“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,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a previous news release.
“Not only did it show us how many planets could be out there, it sparked an entirely new and robust field of research that has taken the science community by storm. Its discoveries have shed a new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars.”
Speaking of space? Could the moon have supported life at one time?