The hunt is on. The Kepler spacecraft opened to the universe this week and is getting set to search for Earth-size planets around distant stars. Perhaps we’ll find a home for E.T. I’m simply thrilled that this critical next step went off without a hitch.
On Tuesday evening, the Kepler spacecraft blew its lid. Well, actually it was a lot calmer than that; the cover was ejected in a carefully engineering maneuver.
At 7:13:36 PM, engineers at Kepler’s mission operations center at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), Boulder, Colo., sent commands to pass an electrical current through a “burn wire” to break the wire and release a latch holding the cover closed. The spring-loaded cover swung open on a fly-away hinge, and then drifted away from the spacecraft.