March 6, 2009

NASA’s Kepler rocket launches

NASA's Kepler spacecraft launched Friday evening from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on a mission to find new planets.

The spacecraft is mounted on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. Sixty-two minutes after launch, Kepler was to have separated entirely from its rocket on the way to its final Earth-trailing orbit around the sun, NASA said.

Kepler will spend the next three and one-half years watching more than 100,000 stars for signs of Earth-sized planets moving around stars similar to the sun.

This mission attempts to answer a question that is as old as time itself -- are other planets like ours out there? Ed Weiler, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement. It's not just a science question -- it's a basic human question.