Planet Hunter Blasts Off
Searching For Other Earths
At about 10:50 PM EST, the Kepler spacecraft left the pad at Cape Canaveral on board a Delta II rocket.
Kepler’s mission: to peer closely at a patch of space for at least three-and-a-half years, looking for rocky planets similar our own. The spacecraft will target an area rich with stars like our sun, watching for a slight dimming in the starlight as planets slip through the space between.
“Kepler is a critical component in NASA’s broader efforts to ultimately find and study planets where Earth-like conditions may be present,” said Jon Morse, the Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
One of the hardest questions to address in astronomy and in all of space science is the question of life in the galaxy. Is there life elsewhere, how much of it, and under what conditions can it survive long term are nearly unanswerable, given the sample of 1 that we have to study. The Kepler mission is designed to improve those statistics, by searching explicitly for earth-like planets, the one type that we know can sustain life.
“The planetary census Kepler takes will be very important for understanding the frequency of Earth-size planets in our galaxy and planning future missions that directly detect and characterize such worlds around nearby stars.”