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NASA prays for smooth Kepler launch

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NASA prays for smooth Kepler launch

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NASA hopes its latest project will begin to answer the question, is there anybody out there?

Its first telescope tailor-made to seek out earthlike planets orbiting other stars blasts off, hopefully sucessfully, in a few hours. The Kepler telescope is named after the famous 17th century German astronomer Johannes, and is due to look into a star-rich swathe of the milky way, between constellations Cygnus and Lyra, for three and a half years. Its two main tasks will be to stare at the stars, and remain still so its pictures will not be distorted, as Kepler’s near metre-wide mirror can detect just a few photon changes in light. “This is a historical mission, this is not just a science mission. I maintain it really attacks some very basic human questions that have been a part of our genetic code since that first man or woman looked up at the sky and asked the question are we alone?” says NASA’s Ed Weiler. We have already found over 300 planets orbiting stars, but none of Earth’s size, or at the right distance from the star to have liquid water, the prime requisite for life.