Goodbye Kepler, and thanks for all the data

NASA announced on 30 Oct 2018 that the Kepler spacecraft will be retired because it finally has run out of fuel for the control system.

2018.10.31 | Ole J. Knudsen

NASA's exoplanet hunter Kepler. Credits: NASA/Wendy Stenzel/Daniel Rutter

Professor Hans Kjeldsen made a short speach at this morning's SAC breakfast in Aarhus, mentioning that we cannot overestimate the importance of Kepler to our work at SAC, both concerning asteroseismology and exoplanet work. Hans ended by proposing a toast (in coffee) to Kepler: "The King is dead - long live the Queen (TESS)".

35 years ago, when the first ideas of the Kepler mission were launched, no planets at all were known outside the Solar System, and some had a suspicion that maybe it was almost unique in the Milky Way. Kepler has given us observations of more than 2 600 confirmed planets, with thousands more on the to-be-determined list, and we now know that there are more planets than stars in the Universe. There are still years of work and new discoveries in the huge amounts of data that Kepler has collected, while the spacecraft itself is slowly drifting along in its orbit, which brings it further and further away from Earth. Kepler of course is just a piece of hardware. What really has made this mission fantastic are the thousands of people all over this planet, who dreamt the dream and made the mission not only possible but a huge success.

Kepler will not be forgotten, and it deserves if any to be put on display at the Air and Space Museum in Washington - a dream maybe not as impossible as it seems, because Kepler will be back in the vicinity of Earth in some 40 years time!

NASA's 'obituary' on Kepler can be found here.

Public/media, Staff, Students