The Kepler telescope is down but not out. The observatory was NASA's preeminent planet-hunting machine until May, when a mechanical failure on the spacecraft cost Kepler its precise pointing ability and, with it, the power to discover small exoplanets that could be similar to Earth. But space telescopes—even banged-up ones—are hard to come by, so NASA put out a call for ideas on how to repurpose Kepler. In response, scientists suggested more than 40 new missions for the spacecraft. Some are modified ways to carry on the search for planets, whereas others represent new directions altogether. Here are four intriguing blueprints for Kepler's second life.
This article was originally published with the title "Kepler's Second Life" in Scientific American 309, 6, 24 (December 2013)