Kepler Begins Search for Other 'Earths'

Spacecraft will spend next 3 years searching for planet in 'Goldilocks zone'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 7, 2009 2:18 AM CST
Spectators watch the launch of NASA's planet-hunting spacecraft, Kepler Friday, March 6, 2009, from Cocoa Beach, Fla.    (AP Photo/Florida Today, Malcolm Denemark)
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(Newser) – NASA's planet-hunting spacecraft Kepler was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral last night, reports. Kepler, the widest-field telescope ever sent into space, will spend the next three years scanning the sky for a planet in the "Goldilocks zone" where conditions are just right for liquid water to exist and for life to take hold.

"We have a feeling like we're about to set sail across an ocean to discover a new world," said the project manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "It's sort of the same feeling Columbus or Magellan must have had." The $600 million spacecraft will start scanning after a few weeks of health checks and will send its findings back to Earth monthly.