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From Kepler Mission Manager Roger Hunter
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Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II 7925
Launch Location: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Launch Pad: Launch Complex 17-B
Launch Date: March 6
Launch Time: 10:49:57 p.m. EST
Liftoff of NASA's Kepler Spacecraft aboard a Delta II Rocket
Image above: Liftoff of the Delta II rocket carrying the Kepler spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
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The Delta II rocket carrying NASA's Kepler spacecraft lifted off March 6, 2009 from Launch Complex 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Launch occurred at 10:49 p.m. EST, sending the agency's first planet-hunting spacecraft on a three-and-a-half-year mission to seek signs of other Earth-like planets.
The countdown proceeded smoothly throughout the day, and a perfect weather forecast held true, allowing an on-time liftoff on the first attempt.
The Kepler spacecraft will watch a patch of space for indications of Earth-sized planets moving around stars similar to the sun. The area that Kepler will watch contains about 100,000 stars like the sun. Using special detectors similar to those used in digital cameras, Kepler will look for a slight dimming in the stars as planets pass between the stars and Kepler. The observatory's place in space will allow it to watch the same stars constantly throughout its mission, something observatories such as NASA's Hubble Space Telescope cannot do.
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