Status Report

NASA Kepler Mission Manager Update: Leadership Change

By SpaceRef Editor
May 2, 2014
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NASA Kepler Mission Manager Update: Leadership Change

Today the team announces a change in project management.

“This is my final input for the Kepler Mission Manager Update. It has been a great pleasure to be associated with the Kepler mission since May 2008. The Kepler team has accomplished so much and its contributions to exoplanet science and astronomy are historic and, in many cases, without precedence. Though begun as a Discovery class mission, Kepler is more than worthy of Great Observatory fame. Its discoveries will long be remembered in textbooks and the annals of history with many “firsts.”  As Charlie Sobeck continues as the Kepler Project Manager, I congratulate him and the Kepler team on the mission’s remarkable successes.  I’m certain their successes will continue with the proposed two-wheel “K2” mission, and it will continue to amaze with even more discoveries yet to come. As I assume other duties at NASA’s Ames Research Center, I bid the team a fond farewell — GO KEPLER!”


Roger (aka Colonel R. P. Hunter)

While Roger moves on to other tasks, the work on Kepler continues.

We are currently in the midst of an end-to-end shakedown of the proposed K2 mission, performing our Campaign 0, observing in the ecliptic plane. While this is primarily an engineering test of the K2 mission, we are collecting science data on approximately 8,000 targets, including most of the open star cluster M35. Campaign 0 is being conducted in preparation for the K2 mission, if it is approved, following the 2014 Astrophysics Senior Review of Operating Missions.

During the first half of the campaign, we discovered a pointing instability that eventually took the spacecraft to safe mode. Before resuming the second half of the campaign, we took advantage of the break to investigate the cause of the instability and engineer a robust solution. With this complete, we are now back to data collection, and expect to continue Campaign 0 through May 28.

If the K2 mission is approved, the team will begin Campaign 1 operations in early June. Working to this assumption, we have actively engaged the scientific community to identify the precise pointing of the early campaigns and to solicit targets for observation. Our team has developed a new star catalog (the K2 Ecliptic Plane Input Catalog – EPIC) to assist observers in choosing targets. The community has responded with enthusiasm, and the target selection process for Campaign 1 is nearly complete.

This month also saw the announcement of Kepler-186f, the first Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of another star! This announcement marked yet another milestone step in the path that leads to answering the question: Are we alone?

With Roger’s departure, I am honored to have the opportunity to continue working this exciting mission with an outstanding group of people and partner organizations. We will all do our best to complete the work that has been entrusted to us.



SpaceRef staff editor.