Saturday, March 7, 2009

NASA planet hunter poised for liftoff

NASA's planet-hunting spacecraft, Kepler, is poised for liftoff, and everything seems to be going well in the final stages of Friday's countdown.

Even the weather is cooperating for the nighttime rocket launch from Cape Canaveral. Forecasters put the odds of good weather at more than 95 percent, as good as it gets.

The Kepler telescope, once it's in orbit around the sun, will try to find other Earths in a faraway patch of the Milky Way galaxy. It will stare at 100,000 stars for more than three years. It will be watching for any dimming, or winks, in the stellar brightness that might be caused by orbiting planets.

The mission cost is $600 million.