The Kepler Team announced the planet hunting telescope is in safe mode because it's 4th wheel would not stop when commanded, indicating something was wrong internally. They said they will try to remedy the problem as best they can in the coming days and weeks. If it can't be fixed, the telescope will not be able to focus properly to retrieve data. No decision has been made to stop the mission.
The Kepler Space Telescope was launched on March 9, 2009 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. I remember seeing it blazing through the night sky from my backyard in Central Florida. Almost immediately there was breaking news that the spacecraft had already discovered amazing alien worlds. From then on anything was possible and imaginations could run wild. Any day the Kepler team had news it was like Christmas to space enthusiast around the world. Now we know there are hot Jupiters and super Earths everywhere in our galaxy. With the news came tantalizing clues that on some of these worlds, there could be life! We finally have proof that our solar system is not alone in the Milky Way.
Kepler has identified 132 planets and has a list of 2,740 other candidates by concentrating on stars in the constellations Cygnus and Lyra. It looks for dips in star light caused when a planet passes in front of a star, this is called the transit method. With all the discoveries made there is still so much data to sift through. The Kepler team asked the public to help and created the Planet Hunters, where regular people can actually help discover new alien planets. It's pretty exciting to be a part of it and they always need help.
In a mission statement the team said "Kepler had successfully completed its primary three-and-a-half year mission and entered an extended mission phase in November 2012.
Even if data collection were to end, the mission has substantial quantities of data on the ground yet to be fully analyzed, and the string of scientific discoveries is expected to continue for years to come."
It's not time to go into mourning just yet. We will have to wait and see if Kepler can be saved. Since there was so much data collected we will still receive exciting news of incredible alien worlds from our beloved Kepler. Even if the telescope never works again our world is forever changed from it's mind blowing discoveries.
You can visit the Kepler website and find out more about the discoveries with their interactive chart.
Thank you Kepler Mission for proving to the world that there are many diverse and extraordinary planets in our galaxy!