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NASA Ends Attempts to Fully Recover Kepler Spacecraft, Potential New Missions Considered
08.15.2013
Read complete NASA RELEASE 13-254.

Hear NASA News Audio (2013 Aug 15 2pm EST)
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photo of reaction wheel made by Ball Aerospace
Photo of a Kepler reaction wheel from Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation.

Excerpt: Following months of analysis and testing, the Kepler Space Telescope team is ending its attempts to restore the spacecraft to full working order, and now is considering what new science research it can carry out in its current condition.

Two of Kepler's four gyroscope-like reaction wheels, which are used to precisely point the spacecraft, have failed. The first was lost in July 2012, and the second in May [2013]. Engineers' efforts to restore at least one of the wheels have been unsuccessful. ... the spacecraft needs three functioning wheels to continue its search for Earth-sized exoplanets

..."At the beginning of our mission, no one knew if Earth-size planets were abundant in the galaxy. If they were rare, we might be alone," said William Borucki, Kepler science principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "Now at the completion of Kepler observations, the data holds the answer to the question that inspired the mission: Are Earths in the habitable zone of stars like our sun common or rare?"

photo of Kepler spacecraftAn engineering study will be conducted on the modifications required to manage science operations with the spacecraft using a combination of its remaining two good reaction wheels and thrusters for spacecraft attitude control.

Informed by contributions from the broader science community in response to the call for scientific white papers announced Aug. 2, the Kepler project team will perform a study to identify possible science opportunities for a two-wheel Kepler mission.

Depending on the outcome of these studies, which are expected to be completed later this year, NASA will assess the scientific priority of a two-wheel Kepler mission. Such an assessment may include prioritization relative to other NASA astrophysics missions competing for operational funding at the NASA Senior Review board early next year.

...For more information about NASA's call for two-wheel science proposals, visit:
http://go.nasa.gov/1a1UzaC ....

See also information about Kepler Science Conference (2013 Nov 4-8 at NASA Ames Research Center)

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