Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

NASA's Kepler Mission Rockets To Space In Search Of Other Earths

Date:
March 8, 2009
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
NASA's Kepler mission successfully launched into space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II on Friday, March 6. Kepler is designed to find the first Earth-size planets orbiting stars at distances where water could pool on the planet's surface. Liquid water is believed to be essential for the formation of life.

A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket carrying the NASA Kepler spacecraft blasts off from Space Launch Complex-17B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 10:50 p.m. EST March 6. After a 62-minute flight, the spacecraft was successfully delivered to its assigned orbit.
Credit: Photo by Carleton Bailie, United Launch Alliance

NASA's Kepler mission successfully launched into space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II at 10:49 p.m. EST (7:49 p.m. PST), Friday, March 6. Kepler is designed to find the first Earth-size planets orbiting stars at distances where water could pool on the planet's surface. Liquid water is believed to be essential for the formation of life.

"It was a stunning launch," said Kepler Project Manager James Fanson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Our team is thrilled to be a part of something so meaningful to the human race -- Kepler will help us understand if our Earth is unique or if others like it are out there."

Engineers acquired a signal from Kepler at 12:11 a.m. Saturday EST (9:11 p.m. Friday PST), after it separated from its spent third-stage rocket and entered its final sun-centered orbit, trailing about 1,529 kilometers (950 miles) behind Earth. The spacecraft is generating its own power from its solar panels.

"Kepler now has the perfect place to watch more than 100,000 stars for signs of planets," said William Borucki, the mission's science principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. Borucki has worked on the mission for 17 years. "Everyone is very excited as our dream becomes a reality. We are on the verge of learning if other Earths are ubiquitous in the galaxy."

Engineers have begun to check Kepler to ensure it is working properly, a process called "commissioning" that will take about 60 days. In about a month or less, NASA will send up commands for Kepler to eject its dust cover and make its first measurements. After another month of calibrating Kepler's single instrument, a wide-field charge-couple device camera, the telescope will begin to search for planets.

The first planets to roll out on the Kepler "assembly line" are expected to be the portly "hot Jupiters" -- gas giants that circle close and fast around their stars. NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes will be able to follow up with these planets and learn more about their atmospheres. Neptune-size planets will most likely be found next, followed by rocky ones as small as Earth. The true Earth analogs -- Earth-sized planets orbiting stars like our sun at distances where surface water, and possibly life, could exist -- would take at least three years to discover and confirm. Ground-based telescopes also will contribute to the mission by verifying some of the finds.

In the end, Kepler will give us our first look at the frequency of Earth-size planets in our Milky Way galaxy, as well as the frequency of Earth-size planets that could theoretically be habitable.

"Even if we find no planets like Earth, that by itself would be profound. It would indicate that we are probably alone in the galaxy," said Borucki.

As the mission progresses, Kepler will drift farther and farther behind Earth in its orbit around the sun. NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, which was launched into the same orbit more than five years ago, is now more than about 100 million kilometers (62 million miles) behind Earth.

Kepler is a NASA Discovery mission. Ames is the home organization of the science principal investigator and is responsible for the ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. JPL manages the Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., is responsible for developing the Kepler flight system and supporting mission operations. NASA's Launch Services Program at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., managed the launch service including payload integration and certifying the Delta II launch vehicle for NASA's use.

For more information about the Kepler mission, visit http://www.nasa.gov/kepler .


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "NASA's Kepler Mission Rockets To Space In Search Of Other Earths." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090308113204.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2009, March 8). NASA's Kepler Mission Rockets To Space In Search Of Other Earths. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090308113204.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "NASA's Kepler Mission Rockets To Space In Search Of Other Earths." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090308113204.htm (accessed October 23, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 22, 2014) — Russian cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev step outside the International Space Station to perform work on the exterior of the station's Russian module. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) — Argentina launches a home-built satellite, a first for Latin America. It will ride a French-made Ariane 5 rocket into orbit, and will provide cell phone, digital TV, Internet and data services to the lower half of South America. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

NASA (Oct. 17, 2014) — Power spacewalk, MAVEN’s “First Light”, Hubble finds extremely distant galaxy and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins