SETI Scientist Will Lead NASA Next-Gen Successor To Kepler Mission
April 21, 2013

SETI Scientist Will Lead NASA Next-Gen Successor To Kepler Mission

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A SETI Institute scientist has been chosen to lead the design, development and operations of the data processing center for NASA´s next-generation successor to the Kepler Mission, the Mountain View, California-based organization announced on Friday.

Jon M. Jenkins, a senior researcher at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute, will oversee operations of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) Mission´s Data Processing Group (DPG) at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, the organization said.

“It´s extremely exciting to learn that the profound voyage of discovery that Kepler began in 2009 will continue with a mission to discover Earth´s closest cousins,” Jenkins, the co-investigator for data processing for both TESS and Kepler, said in a statement.

Jenkins, a 2010 recipient of NASA´s Exceptional Technology Achievement Medal, joins a TESS team that includes principle investigator George Ricker, associate professor of physics Josh Winn, and professor of planetary science and physics Sara Seager, all of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). TESS has been selected by NASA for a 2017 launch.

According to SETI, TESS is set to continue Kepler´s “groundbreaking” work as it hunts for Earth-sized exoplanets. The mission will utilize an array of four telescopes in order to perform an all-sky survey in the hopes of discovering transiting exoplanets, both large and small, as they orbit around some of the sky´s nearest and brightest stars

“Its goal is to identify terrestrial planets in the habitable zones of nearby stars that are best suited for extensive follow up observations and characterization,” SETI said, adding that TESS “will collect 10 times as much data during its two-year mission as Kepler did during its first two years.”

The mission´s Data Processing Group will process the raw pixel data downloaded by TESS, with the hopes it will be able to detect the signatures of transiting exoplanets. The DPG team will use the experience of the Kepler Mission´s Science Operations Center to create a data processing facility that is able to handle the “rigorous requirements” of the new mission without creating too much of a fiscal burden, the Institute said.