NASA's Kepler Mission ready to be shipped to Florida for launch in March

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Search area of the Kepler Mission compared to a conception of the Milky Way galaxy. Even observing 100,000 stars only makes up a tiny portion of a single galaxy amongst some 400 billion or so other galaxies.

Here's the latest news on the most exciting mission in...well, ever, assuming it's successful and finds what it's supposed to find, other Earths.
Engineers are getting ready to pack NASA's Kepler spacecraft into a container and ship it off to its launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

The mission, scheduled to launch on March 5, 2009, will seek to answer an age-old question -- are there other Earths in space?
Well, that's a rather silly question. Considering the number of stars in the universe, if we're talking about a planet roughly our size with a similar atmosphere, the only question is how many and how close the nearest one is.

More detail on what Kepler is expected to accomplish:
Kepler will monitor more than 100,000 stars for signatures of planets of various sizes and orbital distances. It has the ability to locate rocky planets like Earth, including those that lie in a star's "habitable zone," a region where liquid water, and perhaps life, could exist. If these Earth-size worlds do exist around stars like our sun, Kepler is expected to be the first to find them, and the first to measure their frequency.

"Kepler's mission is to determine whether Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of other stars are frequent or rare; whether life in our Milky Way galaxy is likely to be frequent or rare," said William Borucki, the Kepler science principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Or to be more precise, "whether life in our Milky Way galaxy as we know it is likely to be frequent or rare", since we've yet to establish exactly where life should be able to thrive. For all we know the cloudtops of Venus could be harbouring life (microbial life) as we speak.

The Kepler Mission or perhaps an earthbound observatory or the COROT Mission will finally change space from the current impression we have of it (dark, cold, vast, with uninhabitable planets here and there) to something completely different: dark, cold, vast, with uninhabitable planets...and inhabitable planets too that we could explore right away if we could only reach them. It's the difference between setting out in a vast sea in which you've only discovered jagged cliffs and ice floes, and setting out in the same sea but knowing that there are some islands far away where you can pull up and explore.

(doesn't mean there aren't going to be weird life, new diseases, life-threatening hazards and all the rest on this island mind you)


  © Blogger templates Newspaper by 2008

Back to TOP