NASA to launch Kepler mission tomorrow

Posted Mar 5, 2009 by Moushumi Chakrabarty
Are we alone on Earth? Or are there many more Earths like ours, inhabited by humans, or lesser evolved forms? NASA is launching its Kepler mission tomorrow Friday, 6 March, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, to muse on these mysteries.
Young Stars Sculpt Gas with Powerful Outflows in the Small Magellanic Cloud.
Young Stars Sculpt Gas with Powerful Outflows in the Small Magellanic Cloud.
Photo by NASA and STScI
Kepler will locate planets which could hold water, an essential factor for life forms to survive. According to a report on NASA’s website: “This mission attempts to answer a question that is as old as time itself -- are other planets like ours out there?" said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. It's not just a science question -- it's a basic human question."
Kepler will achieve this by staring at more than 100,000 stars for three and a half years. Scientists have already found that there are more than 340 planets which circle stars beyond our solar system. However, none of these are the same size as the Earth, says a report on Kepler’s sophisticated equipment which measures light will be able to capture the slightest changes in the number of photons from the targeted 100,000 stars.
And after three and a half years, scientists will be able to say whether we’re all alone in the universe. Weiler said, “It very possibly could tell us that Earths are very, very common, that we have lots of neighbors out there. Or, it could tell us that Earths are really, really, really rare - perhaps we're the only Earth.”