NASA's planet hunter is phoning home and lookin' good

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NASA's Kepler spacecraft, launched March 6 to begin a 3.5-year hunt for Earth-like planets around other stars, is easing into its "Earth-following" orbit around the sun.

So far, the craft is responding like a champ, according to mission controllers. Bit by bit they are testing different systems to make sure they are performing properly.

Star cameras? Check. Kepler has two of these. They don't look for planets. Instead they track stars carefully selected to keep the navigation system up to speed on where the telescope is in space and whether it's pointing in the right direction.

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Sun sensors? Check. Kepler has 14 of these. They allow the spacecraft's navigation and pointing systems to know at any time where the sun is. That's important for two reasons. It's a reality check on the rest of the navigation system -- no one wants to see the telescope inadvertently aimed at the sun. And it helps ensure the solar panels are properly oriented to provide enough power, especially in an emergency should something go wrong,

Communications systems? Check.

So everything is looking fine so far. The craft's shakedown period is expected to last for 50 to 60 days after launch. Then it's on to planet-hunting!

And in a comment to a previous post, "guy" wondered if a video of the launch was available. Check out the video below...

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