Scientists at NASA are preparing to download the latest bit of data stored in its plant-hunting Kepler space telescope as the spacecraft is now running “very low” on fuel.
According to NASA, it has placed the spacecraft in a no-fuel-use safe mode to save the remaining fuel so that data extraction can be completed.
On August 2, the Kepler team will command the spacecraft to awaken from its no-fuel-use state and manoeuvre the spacecraft to the correct orientation and downlink the data.
Once the data has been downloaded, the expectation is to start observations for the next campaign with any remaining fuel.
But as of now, returning the data back to Earth is the “highest priority” for the remaining fuel.
Since May 12, Kepler has been on its 18th observation campaign, staring at a patch of sky towards the constellation of Cancer it previously studied in 2015.
The data from this second look will provide astronomers with an opportunity to confirm previous exoplanet candidates and discover new ones.
To bring the data home, the spacecraft must point its large antenna back to Earth and transmit the data during its allotted Deep Space Network time, which is scheduled in early August.
Until then, the spacecraft will remain stable and parked in a no-fuel-use safe mode.