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 April 17, 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 April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Baby Moon 'Peggy' Spotted In Saturn's Rings

New Baby Moon 'Peggy' Spotted In Saturn's Rings

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A bump in the rings could be a half-mile-wide miniature moon. It was found by accident in Cassini probe images. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Americas Glimpse Total Lunar Eclipse

Americas Glimpse Total Lunar Eclipse

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) A total lunar eclipse, the first since December 2011, took place early Tuesday morning with the Americas getting the best glimpse. Duration: 1:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse

NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse

AP (Apr. 15, 2014) Star gazers in parts of North and South America got a rare treat early Tuesday morning - a total eclipse of the moon. (April 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spacecrafts Could Use Urine As Fuel Source

Spacecrafts Could Use Urine As Fuel Source

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) New research says the urea from urine could be recycled for fuel. Urea is filtered out of wastewater when making drinking water. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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