NASA Extends Kepler, Spitzer and Planck Missions
The 2012 NASA Senior Review report, which includes these three missions and six others also being extended, is available at https://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/2012-senior-review .
“This means scientists can continue using the three spacecraft to study everything from the birth of the universe with Planck, and galaxies, stars, planets, comets and asteroids with Spitzer, while Kepler is determining what percentage of Sun-like stars host potentially habitable Earth-like planets,” said Michael Werner, the chief scientist for astronomy and physics at JPL.
Kepler has been approved for extension through fiscal year 2016, which ends Sept. 30, 2016. All fiscal year 2015 and 2016 decisions are for planning purposes and will be revisited in the 2014 Senior Review. The extension provides four additional years to find Earth-size planets in the habitable zone -- the region in a planetary system where liquid water could exist on the surface of the orbiting planet -- around Sun-like stars in our galaxy.
NASA will fund one additional year of U.S. participation in the European Space Agency’s Planck mission, for the U.S. Planck data center and for operations of Planck’s Low Frequency Instrument. Planck, launched in 2009, is gathering data from the very early universe, shortly after its explosive birth in a big bang. Planck’s observations are yielding insight into the origin, evolution and fate of our universe. The U.S. Planck team will apply for additional funding after a third data release has been approved by the European consortiums.