NASA's Kepler space telescope discovered thousands of planets outside our solar system, and revealed that our galaxy contains more planets than stars. Credit: CNASAredit: NASA Ames / JPL-Caltech
November 18, 2018 – On the night of Thursday, November 15, NASA's Kepler space telescope received a series of final orders to cut off communications with Earth. The "goodnight" order completed the spacecraft's transition to retirement, which began on October 30 with NASA's announcement that Kepler was running out of fuel and could no longer do science.
By coincidence, "good night" Kepler fell on the same date as the 388th anniversary of the namesake's death, German astronomer Johannes Kepler, who discovered the laws of planetary motion and died on November 15, 1630.
The Kepler space telescope has a big impact on our understanding of the number of worlds outside our solar system. Through surveys, we find there are more planets than stars in our galaxy. As part of the spaceship, we asked some of the people closest to Kepler to reflect on what Kepler had for them and his discovery of "more planets than stars".
The last command was sent via NASA's Deep Space Network from the Kepler operations center at the Atmospheric and Space Physics Laboratory, or LASP, at the University of Colorado at Boulder. LASP operates spacecraft on behalf of NASA and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation in Boulder, Colorado.
The Kepler team deactivated security mode which could accidentally revive the system, and cut off communication by turning off the transmitter. Because the spacecraft is slowly spinning, the Kepler team must be careful about the timing of the order so that instructions will reach the spacecraft during the proper communication period. The team will monitor the spacecraft to ensure that the command is successful. The spaceship is now floating in a safe orbit around the Sun, 94 million miles away from Earth.
Data collected by Kepler for more than nine years in operations will be mined for interesting discoveries for years to come.
NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley California manages Kepler and K2's mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages Kepler's mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation operates aviation systems with support from LASP.
For more information about the Kepler mission, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/kepler