NASA has been awarded the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Trophy for Current Achievement for its Kepler planet-hunting mission. It is the museum’s highest group honor, and was awarded to the Kepler mission team in a ceremony in Washington DC.
NASA continues to lead the way in space exploration, and the Smithsonian specifically wanted to recognize Dr. Stamatios “Tom” Krimigis for his efforts.
"The winners of the 2015 Trophy Awards have significantly advanced space exploration and discovery in major ways," Gen. Jack Dailey, Director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, said in a statement. "Few individuals have contributed more significantly to our knowledge of the solar system in a single career than Dr. Krimigis, and the Kepler Mission Team’s accomplishments have altered our views of possible life on other planets in our universe."
The Kepler mission has discovered 1,019 exoplanets since the launch of the mission in March of 2009. To put that in perspective, that is over half of all known worlds outside of our solar system.
According to Ball Aerospace, during its six years in orbit, Kepler has discovered:
• Over 3,600 planetary candidates
• Over 700 multi-planet systems
• The first small planet in the habitable zone (Kepler-22b)
• Three Earth-sized planets in the habitable zones around their stars
• The smallest exoplanets ever detected (KOI-961.01, KOI-961.02, KOI-961.03)
• Five worlds (Kepler-16b, Kepler-34b, Kepler-35b, Kepler-47b, Kepler-47c) that orbit around two stars, establishing a new class of planetary system
Ball Aerospace works as the prime contractor for the Kepler mission. They are responsible for the photometer, spacecraft, system integration, testing, and on-orbit operations for the Discovery class mission.
Ball Aerospace has used its expert knowledge in instruments from successes like the Hubble Space Telescope in the photometer for Kepler and the spacecraft design used in Deep Impact for providing power, communications, and telescope pointing.
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