This summer, NASA revealed that its Kepler spacecraft was very low on fuel, and as a result the space agency initiated a hibernation mode. That change in state was designed to conserve the remaining fuel in preparation for downloading scientific data, after which point the spacecraft would spend its final days making new observations. A new problem has forced the team to put Kepler back into the hibernation-like state, however.
NASA explained in a statement today that it has received data revealing issues with Kepler’s ability to precisely position itself. Because fuel is low and Kepler is still housing important scientific data, NASA has put the spacecraft back into a sleep mode.
Kepler is scheduled to use the NASA Deep Space Network on October 10, the date it will wake up and send that info to Earth. The scientific data is the most important goal at this point, that containing info gathered during Kepler’s previous observation campaign.
After the data is recovered, assuming it can be acquired, NASA will then use the spacecraft’s last bit of fuel to try and initiate yet another observation campaign. This will likely be the final campaign by the mission, which was launched in early 2009 to find planets outside of our solar system.
NASA says that it is uncertain how much fuel the spacecraft still holds.