Bad news from space: after months of analysis, Nasa has abandoned repairs to its Kepler Space Telescope.
But the good news is that even in its hobbled state, the craft can still contribute useful science.
Two of Kepler's four gyroscope-like reaction wheels have failed, which means that the craft is no longer able to point itself at precise locations in space.
That wasn't entirely unexpected - Kepler, which has been used mainly to search for Earth-sized planets outside our Solar System - completed its primary mission last year. In that time it found 135 confirmed exoplanets, and identified more than 3,500 candidate planets. Thousands more could be hidden in the data which is still being examined by scientists at Nasa and elsewhere.
The telescope had begun its four-year extended mission when the wheels failed.
While it will not be able to carry out the same detailed work as before, however, it may still be able to search for planets.
"Kepler has made extraordinary discoveries in finding exoplanets including several super-Earths in the habitable zone," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "Knowing that Kepler has successfully collected all the data from its prime mission, I am confident that more amazing discoveries are on the horizon."
Nasa will now complete a study into how best to use the telescope while it is still partially functional.
"Depending on the outcome of these studies, which are expected to be completed later this year, NASA will assess the scientific priority of a two-wheel Kepler mission. Such an assessment may include prioritization relative to other NASA astrophysics missions competing for operational funding at the NASA Senior Review board early next year."
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