Kepler Telescope Can't Be Fixed

But NASA's planet-hunter may be repurposed

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 16, 2013 3:50 PM CDT

(Newser) – Sorry space fans, but NASA has come up with no miracles to save its beloved Kepler telescope, reports National Geographic. At least in its current iteration. Engineers discovered in May that another of the telescope's gyroscopic wheels had gone on the fritz, meaning it could no longer remain steady enough to collect images of stars in its hunt for other planets. NASA has now given up trying to fix the problem, but it hopes that the $600 million telescope can be repurposed through old-fashioned ingenuity, reports the Los Angeles Times. The agency is asking scientists to submit suggestions over the next month.

"It’s very common," says a Penn State astronomer. "Oftentimes you design a spacecraft with everything you want to do but inevitably, at some point, something won’t work. And then you have to figure out, what do we do?" Ideas include using the telescope in a different way to study asteroids and comets. What's more, it will take scientists another three or four years to analyze data already collected by Kepler, which has found 135 confirmed planets and 3,500 possible candidates since it launched in 2009. "We expect the most exciting discoveries will come in the next years," says a Kepler scientist.

This artist's rendering provided by NASA shows the Kepler space telescope.   (AP Photo/NASA, File)
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