Mission News

Kepler Mission Manager Update
Jim Fanson by Jim Fanson, Kepler, JPL Project Manager

Kepler is now more than six million kilometers (3.7 million miles) from Earth, with a round-trip light time -- the time it takes a command to reach the spacecraft and a response to return to Earth -- of 40 seconds. The final performance data are being collected to assess the sensitivity of the science instrument. This will determine how well Kepler will be able to measure the transits of small planets like Earth.

The operations team no longer communicates around the clock with Kepler; contact through NASA's Deep Space Network is reduced to about 18 hours per day and will soon drop to about 6 hours per day when science observations begin. This is a gradual transition to the mode of operation planned for the remainder of the mission, when communication will occur only twice per week. The project will convene a science operations readiness review on Monday, May 11, to determine if the team is ready to commence science data collection.