New Discovery Missions Announced
Discovery Program is very pleased to welcome the two new projects,
Dawn and Kepler, which were approved for continuation by the
Office of Space Science today. We would like to congratulate
Dr. Borucki, Dr. Russell and their respective teams for the
hard work that they've done so far. We look forward to working
with them to make their proposals a reality.
a mission slated for launch in 2006, will orbit the two largest
asteroids in our solar system, and Kepler, a spaceborne telescope,
also scheduled for launch in 2006, will search for Earth-like
planets around stars beyond our solar system.
and Dawn are exactly the kind of missions NASA should be launching,
missions which tackle some of the most important questions
in science yet do it for a very modest cost," said Dr. Edward
Weiler, associate administrator for space science at NASA
Headquarters in Washington, D.C.. "It's an indicator of how
far we've come in our capability to explore space when missions
with such ambitious goals are proposed for the Discovery Program
of lower cost missions rather than as major projects costing
ten times as much."
Dawn mission will make a nine-year journey to orbit the two
most massive asteroids in the solar system, Vesta and Ceres
-- two "baby planets" very different from each other yet both
containing tantalizing clues about the formation of our solar
system. Located in the main asteroid belt between Mars and
Jupiter, Vesta and Ceres have very different properties. Using
the same set of instruments to observe both of these bodies,
Dawn will improve our understanding of how the planets formed
during the earliest epoch of our solar system.
by principal investigator Dr. Christopher T. Russell of the
University of California, Los Angeles, the project is managed
by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Orbital
Sciences Corporation, Dulles, Va., will develop the spacecraft.
its cutting-edge capability, Kepler
may help us answer one of the most enduring questions humans
have asked throughout history: are there others like us in
the universe?" said principal investigator William Borucki
of Ames research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., the leader
of the mission.
Kepler Mission is different from previous ways of looking
for planets which has led to the discovery of about 80 Jupiter-sized
planets about 300 times more massive than Earth. Kepler will
look for the 'transit' signature of planets which occurs each
time a planet crosses the line-of-sight between the planet's
parent star that it is orbiting and the observer. When this
happens, the planet blocks some of the light from its star,
resulting in a periodic dimming. This periodic signature is
used to detect the planet and to determine its size and its
orbit. Kepler will continuously fix its gaze at a region of
space containing 100,000 stars and will be able to determine
if Earth-sized planets makes a transit across any of the stars.
Kepler team includes 25 scientists from 16 institutions in
the U.S. and Canada. The industrial partner for development
of the hardware is Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder,
for the full press release.
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