The Kepler space telescope, which has survived several close calls in its nine years of operation, is finally nearing its end, according to NASA.
NASA said that it will consider the Kepler spacecraft as "a wonderful success" once it ends its run, which may happen within several months.
NASA Kepler Space Telescope Nears Death
In an official press release, NASA revealed that the Kepler space telescope, currently 94 million miles away from Earth, is nearing the end of its life. The spacecraft is said to be running out of fuel and is expected to shut down within several months.
NASA, however, noted that there is no gas gauge for the Kepler spacecraft, which means that the agency has only been monitoring warning signs for low fuel. As such, there is no specific date on when the space telescope will use up its last amount of fuel.
"Our current estimates are that Kepler's tank will run dry within several months — but we've been surprised by its performance before!" said Charlie Sobeck, a system engineer for the mission.
Sobeck is likely referring incidents such as in 2013, when the primary mission of the Kepler spacecraft ended due to a broken second reaction wheel. The space telescope was given an extended mission known as K2, which was estimated to last 10 campaigns of three months each. Surprisingly, the Kepler spacecraft started its 17th campaign this month.
There have also been other close calls for the Kepler spacecraft, such as in 2016, when it was placed in emergency mode. Mission engineers at NASA, however, were able to repair the space telescope to allow it to resume operations.
The Legacy Of The Kepler Spacecraft
The Kepler spacecraft will be revered in history as one of the most valuable astronomical tools ever launched by mankind. The space telescope has detected 2,245 exoplanets, with another 2,342 yet to be confirmed.
According to NASA, it will look to collect as much scientific data as possible with the Kepler spacecraft until the fuel runs out. Once its thrusters are no longer working, the space telescope may no longer be guided to the required angle to transfer data back to Earth.
At this point, any information that the Kepler spacecraft beams back home may already be considered a gift. All that we can do is appreciate the space telescope's service and honor it once it reaches the end of its mission in several months.