Bolden Praises Kepler Team; Looks Forward to NASA Science, Exploration Working Together

Bolden Praises Kepler Team; Looks Forward to NASA Science, Exploration Working Together

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden praised the Kepler Space Telescope team yesterday and used their findings to illustrate the future he sees of NASA’s space science and human spaceflight efforts working more closely together.

Results from Kepler are being revealed this week at the Kepler II science conference at NASA’s Ames Research Center.  Kepler scientists are searching for “exoplanets” — planets orbiting other stars.    Scientists combing through three years of Kepler data have confirmed the existence of 187 planets and identified 3,538 “candidate” planets — meaning initial data suggest a planet is there, but it has not been confirmed by additional research.  Overall, they conclude that “most stars in our galaxy have at least one planet.”

The goal is finding planets that are similar to Earth where life may exist.   Scientists describe a “habitable zone” around stars where conditions are favorable for life as we know it and hope to find planets within that zone of the right size and composition to support life.   At the first Kepler science conference two years ago, the first confirmed planet within a star’s habitable zone was announced — Kepler-22b.    Since then four more have been confirmed.  On Monday, scientists announced that data from Kepler suggests that 20 percent of stars like the Sun have Earth-sized (no more than twice the size of Earth) planets in the habitable zone.

In a video posted yesterday, Bolden heralded the Kepler discoveries as exemplifying how NASA helps provide an understanding of the universe and “why we need to continue to push the boundaries of exploration.”   He goes on to discuss other NASA robotic science missions — Juno, New Horizons, MAVEN — and ties them to NASA’s human space exploration activities.  “As NASA plans missions to an asteroid and Mars, and just marked 13 years of continuous habitation aboard the International Space Station, we’re learning to live and work off planet for the long term.  We’re working hard to revolutionize humanity’s ability to reach and live in other places … and these Kepler findings are a fascinating reminder that there may be other worlds like ours….”  

Bolden ends by saying “with our steady and strategic investments in science, technology and human exploration, we continue to build a space program that leads the world in scientific discovery and technology.  I congratulate the Kepler team … and look forward to science and exploration working together to help NASA write the next chapter of the human experience.”

Historically, NASA’s robotic space science efforts and human spaceflight program have often seemed at cross purposes.   Many scientists eschew human exploration as excessively expensive and risky, diverting money from what they consider to be important research.   Human exploration advocates often view space science as valuable, but insufficient to fulfill the human desire to explore new worlds in person rather than through robotic surrogates.   Bolden, a former astronaut, has made bridge-building between these two facets of the space community a high priority since he became Administrator four years ago.




User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.