These were the voyages of the Kepler space telescope

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"As NASA's first planet-hunting mission, Kepler has wildly exceeded all our expectations and paved the way for our exploration and search for life in the solar system and beyond", says NASA Science Mission Directorate's associate administrator, Thomas Zurbuchen.

NASA's prolific Kepler Space Telescope has run out of fuel, agency officials announced on October 30, 2018.

Kepler has also made many discoveries in the 'Goldilocks Zone' - the necessary distance from a star to potential have liquid water and life - and some of these are likely to be small and rocky, like our own planet Earth. Before the mission, our knowledge of planets outside our solar system that orbit a star was woefully lacking.

But the mission was not without its hiccups - in 2013, mechanical failures stopped Kepler's observations. The knowledge that there are planets scattered everywhere opens almost endless possibilities, and keeps pushing expectations for Kepler's successor TESS and other upcoming missions.

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NASA launched the Kepler telescope on March 6, 2009, in a bid to find out if Earth-like planets that may harbour life are common or rare in other star systems. Indeed, one challenge for astronomers who want to study the properties of Kepler planets is that Kepler itself is often the best instrument to use. This enabled an extended mission for the spacecraft, dubbed K2, which lasted as long as the first mission and bumped Kepler's count of surveyed stars up to more than 500,000. Herz noted that scientific work is a space Observatory is complete. While spacecraft operations have ceased, its data will continue to be publicly available through the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST) at the Space Telescope Science Institute. By investigating a tiny slice of the sky, Kepler has detected light from many thousands of these stars in its view, and variations in the light received has been an indicator of planets.

"If you only pick out the ones that are getting toward the end of their life then you can make a story, but if you look at the entire portfolio of spacecraft, I don't think we have a problem at all, I think we are in a golden age of NASA science", Hertz said.

Kepler's replacement - TESS - is already space-borne, and along with the upcoming James Webb Telescope, these platforms are hoped to bring our observations of the universe to a whole new level.

An artist's concept of NASA's Kepler spacecraft. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation in Boulder, Colorado, operates the flight system with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

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