Wednesday, 20 November 2013

New Plan for a Disabled Kepler

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — The little spacecraft that could may still have some life left in it.
Hearts were broken around the lonely cosmos in the spring when a critical wheel on NASA’s Kepler spacecraft got stuck, leaving its telescope unable to point precisely enough to continue prospecting for Earthlike planets in a starry patch of the Milky Way. But Kepler’s managers say they have a plan that could keep it hunting for these exoplanets for three or four more years. [More...]
This is great news.  I wrote earlier in an "Ode to Kepler" about the breakdown of the planet hunter.  So sad, because it had led to the discovery of many planets in our galaxy and led to the recent estimates of at least 8 billion earth-like planets in our Galaxy alone.
Of course, the fact of billions of earths does not mean that they will develop intelligent life, let alone a civilisation.  This is discussed by Sean Carrol, in his "Billions of Worlds" and today in the International New York Times, in "Are we alone in the Universe".
In short, from current knowledge, it is just as likely that we are indeed alone, as it is that there are many millions or billions of earths with intelligent life. If it's the case that life tends to rise in any earth-like planet, then there will be not just some, but millions. But if or Earth's conditions really were unique, then there may be none.  
What will show the case for life is if we find the trace of chemicals associated with life, on an exo-planet.  And that's where the great news is: in the potential for Kepler to keep on gazing out at extra terrestrial earths to see if it can find the signature of life.