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*** SEPTEMBER 2008 ***

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...NASA's planet-hunting Kepler mission, scheduled to launch in 2009, has survived an extreme temperature test.
The thermal vacuum test is part of a series of environmental tests the spacecraft will undergo before it blasts into space aboard a Delta II rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
"Kepler functioned extremely well at the intense temperatures it will encounter in space," said James Fanson, Kepler project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
The test, which was performed at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., simulates the vacuum of space, and the extreme temperatures Kepler will face once launched. The spacecraft is tucked into a vacuum chamber and surrounded by a cold shroud to mimic the deep chill of space. One side of the spacecraft -- the side with solar panels -- is then baked as if it were being heated by the sun.
The goal is to make sure that the spacecraft and its detectors operate properly in the space-like environment. An electromagnetic compatibility test, to ensure Kepler's electronics are sound, will begin soon.
Kepler will monitor 100,000 stars, searching for signs of planets -- including ones as small as or smaller than Earth To date, no Earth-sized planet has been discovered.

...Journalists are invited to join a group of Las Vegas students who have "struck it rich" on Wednesday, Sept. 17.
These lucky students will chat with NASA's Expedition 17 astronauts aboard the International Space Station from 11:15 a.m. to 11:35 a.m. PDT at the Jim Bridger Middle School. The school is located at 2505 North Bruce Street in Las Vegas.
A live educational downlink will connect an auditorium filled with hundreds of middle school students and teachers with space station crewmembers. The goal is to learn more about what life is like in space and how gravity affects people on Earth....
Jim Bridger Middle School is a participant in the NASA Explorer Schools Program. The program offers a three-year partnership between NASA and school teams, which consists of teachers and education administrators from diverse communities across the country. Focusing on underserved populations, the program is designed for education communities at the grade 4-9 levels to help middle schools improve teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering and math.
The downlink event is one in a series with educational organizations in the U.S. and abroad. It is an integral component of NASA's Teaching from Space Program. The program promotes learning opportunities and builds partnerships with the education community using the unique environment of human space flight.