Mission News

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

Following a successful readiness review, Kepler began its search for planets around other stars at 5:01 p.m. Pacific Time (8:01 p.m. Eastern Time) on May 12, 2009. The first of the science data are scheduled to be sent down to Earth on June 18, at which point analysis of the data by the science team will commence. While it will take years to discover any Earth-size planets orbiting in the habitable zones of stars (regions where temperatures are right for liquid water), we expect to confirm fairly quickly the three planets known to transit, or cross in front of, their stars in the Kepler field of view. In the months ahead, we expect to begin detecting large planets that orbit their stars closely.

This activity concludes the commissioning phase of the project, and this is the last mission update I will be writing. Going forward during mission operations, updates will be provided by Roger Hunter, who will become the Kepler project manager at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., when management responsibility is transferred from JPL in the weeks ahead. It has been a pleasure for me to share these updates with you as we embark on this historic mission of discovery.