Chapter 8

Alien Earths

In Search of Wet, Rocky Habitats

The brilliant floodlights came on at dusk, with their crisscrossing beams pointed at the shiny Delta-II rocket perched on Pad 17-B at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The sky above was perfectly clear, with the Moon more than half full. The flawless liftoff occurred at 10:49 p.m. on March 6, 2009, as hundreds watched from within the Kennedy Space Center and hundreds more from the beach at Jetty Park a few kilometers away. One man among the select crowd within the compound, Bill Borucki, had waited longer, and fought harder, than anybody else to be there. The rocket’s precious cargo—a satellite observatory named Kepler, designed to search for transiting Earth twins around distant stars—was born out ...

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