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Kepler and the Search for Life
This artist rendition provided by NASA shows the Kepler space telescope. Kepler is designed to search for Earth-like planets in the Milky Way galaxy. The first opportunity to launch the unmanned Kepler space telescope aboard a Delta II rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Friday March 6, 2009 at 10:48 p.m. EST. (AP)

This artist rendition provided by NASA shows the Kepler space telescope. Kepler is designed to search for Earth-like planets in the Milky Way galaxy. The first opportunity to launch the unmanned Kepler space telescope aboard a Delta II rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida is Friday March 6, 2009 at 10:48 p.m. EST. (AP)

The Kepler space telescope is on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. At 10:49 tonight, it’s scheduled to go up.

Now, rockets go up and rockets come down. Some too early, like the atmospheric satellite that landed in the Antarctic drink last week. But assuming Kepler makes it up, it has a huge story to tell us. Essentially, whether or not we’re alone in the universe.

If Kepler spots a lot more Earth-like planets, odds are it’s a crowded cosmos of life out there. If not, we really are a lonely planet.

This hour, On Point: Is there anybody out there? We’ll talk about the Kepler telescope, its mission, and the ongoing search for life beyond Earth.

Guests:

From Los Angeles we’re joined by Emily Lakdawalla, correspondent for Planetary.org, where she covers space exploration and space science for the Planetary Society Blog.

From Orlando, Florida, on his way to Cape Canaveral and the launch of the Kepler telescope, is Alan Boss. He’s a member of the Kepler Mission’s science team and an expert on extrasolar planets and planet formation. His new book is “The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets.” (Read an excerpt.)

And joining us from London, Ontario, is Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, which has been searching for extraterrestrial life since 1960. His latest book is “Confessions of an Alien Hunter: A Scientist’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.” (Read an excerpt.)

More links:

NASA’s Kepler Mission site offers a useful overview, a rich collection of multimedia, and much more.

Here are some of the online videos about the Kepler mission made available by NASA:

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