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Whatever Happened to the Kepler Space Telescope?
The Kepler Space Telescope was launched in 2009 to explore planets outside our solar system (known as exoplanets). During its 11-year mission, the telescope discovered an astonishing 2,600 exoplanets, with names like Kepler-452b or Kepler-4b.
Eventually, the telescope ran out of fuel and went dark. However, instead of burning up in the atmosphere, its decommissioning involved shutting down its systems and allowing it to float as an inert block in space.
Even after the telescope was retired, it still offered a treasure trove of information to the astronomical community. For example, its data was used to estimate that there may be up to six billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy.
The Kepler mission was considered a huge success. According to NASA’s Thomas
Zurbuchen, “Its discoveries have shed new light on our place in the universe, and illuminated the tantalizing mysteries and possibilities among the stars.”