The Kepler telescope is a $600 million piece of machinery designed to search the solar system for other planets able to sustain life, but NASA officials said it’s now broken beyond repair.
The telescope suffered breaks it two of its four rotator wheels, which are necessary to keep it pointed in the right direction. NASA officials said the wheels can’t be fixed, but may find some other use for the expensive telescope.
“The wheels are sufficiently damaged that they cannot sustain spacecraft pointing control for any extended period of time,” Charles Sobeck, Kepler deputy project manager at NASA, told Reuters.
NASA officials are now looking for a way to use the telescope that doesn’t call for it to move as much.
The Kepler telescope was only four years old when it broke, and had been designed with an important function. NASA officials said it was looking for planets in what they call the “goldilocks zone,” an area where the temperature is not too hot or too cold, thus able to sustain life.
In its time, the telescope was able to find 135 planets within this range, along with 3,500 more that could fit criteria but needed a closer look from astronomers.
Though the Kepler telescope is broken, these discoveries have given hope to NASA researchers that they will one day find planets sustaining life.
“Knowing that Kepler has successfully collected all the data from its prime mission, I am confident that more amazing discoveries are on the horizon,” said John Grunsfeld, the associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
To find a new life for the Kepler telescope, NASA is putting out proposals for its new two-wheel function. They have been preparing for this moment for a while, as the first problems with the telescope showed up in July 2012 when one of its reaction wheels stopped spinning. The second one gave out in May.