"We've got a lot of planetary candidates that we know when the transits occur," he said. "We might be able to schedule a day or two days of precise pointing during that period and catch the next transit, and improve our knowledge of the planetary systems — maybe determine the mass of those systems, things like that."
"So it's not clear that planet hunting per se is off the table," he added. "It's just a different style of hunting."
In two or three weeks, the Kepler team aims to return the observatory to wheel control, Sobeck said. The observatory's handlers will attempt to point Kepler using its reaction wheels, first coarsely and then, if that works, with much more precision.
If all goes well, mission team members will then start considering seriously when to return the spacecraft to science operations — whatever goals those operations end up pursuing.
"We still have a great spacecraft, a great instrument," Sobeck said. "The instrument is working. We just have to figure out a way to get it pointed at the targets we want."
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