Charlie Sobeck, NASA Ames Research Center, Kepler/K2 Project Manager
2017 marks the final year of the Kepler mission, while K2 continues to gather new science data. Last August, the final Kepler photometric products – a complete set of reprocessed short cadence data – were made available through the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST: https://archive.stsci.edu/kepler/). The data collected from the K2 mission are available at MAST through Campaign 10 (https://archive.stsci.edu/k2/). K2 is currently in its twelfth campaign.
The Kepler mission is nearing the completion of its final catalog, which will be delivered through the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute’s (NExScI’s) Exoplanet Archive (http://exoplanetarchive.ipac.caltech.edu/index.html) in time to support the 2017 Astrophysical Data Analysis Program in the early spring timeframe. The first deliveries of the final Occurrence Rate Products designed to allow researchers to investigate the demographics of exoplanets in unique ways will also be delivered at this time. All final data deliveries will follow shortly thereafter. The Kepler and K2 missions will host a science conference at Ames Research Center in June 2017 (https://keplerscience.arc.nasa.gov/scicon4/), the final such conference for the Kepler mission.
Meanwhile, the Astrophysics Division's Senior Review concurred with K2's proposal for continued operations through the remaining on-board fuel lifetime, anticipated to last through the spring of 2018. The mission recovered from a spacecraft emergency just as it began the special microlensing experiment of Campaign 9 (https://keplerscience.arc.nasa.gov/k2-c9.html) and successfully completed the campaign in conjunction with ground-based observers to identify 628 microlensing events to date. A similar supernova experiment (Campaign 16: https://keplerscience.arc.nasa.gov/supernova-experiment/) is expected to be conducted between December 2017 and March 2018.
During Campaign 10, the spacecraft suffered the loss of its third detector module. Eighteen of the 21 science detector modules remain fully operational. Two science modules had failed previously: Module 7 in January 2014 and Module 3 in January 2010. Otherwise, the spacecraft continues to operate well.
On Aug. 15, Natalie Batalha was appointed as the project scientist for the Kepler mission. Since 1999, Dr. Batalha has served in numerous leadership roles throughout the mission including deputy principal investigator and science team lead. In addition to her responsibilities with the Kepler mission, Natalie is a co-lead of NASA's Nexus for Exoplanet System Science Coalition, and serves on the James Webb Space Telescope Advisory Committee. She also serves as a member of the NASA Advisory Council's Astrophysics Subcommittee, and, in 2013, participated on the task force to define NASA's 30-year Astrophysics Roadmap- Enduring Quests, Daring Visions: NASA Astrophysics in the Next Three Decades.
On Sept. 6, Jessie Dotson assumed the role of project scientist for the K2 mission. Dr. Dotson was formerly the deputy science office director for Kepler and, in 2008, established the Kepler Guest Observer Office. Most recently, she served as astrophysics branch chief in the Space Science and Astrobiology Division at NASA Ames. In 2014, Jessie helped formulate the Asteroid Threat Assessment Project (ATAP) at NASA Ames to quantify the risk to Earth of an asteroid impact. She currently leads the ATAP asteroid characterization team. In 2016, Jessie was awarded a NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal for her work as the astrophysics branch chief at Ames.
Together, Natalie and Jessie replace Steve Howell who served as Kepler project scientist since 2013 and K2 project scientist since mission conception in 2013. In that role, Steve oversaw Kepler science operations through the end of its prime mission, the recovery from the reaction wheel failure that nearly ended the mission, and the development and implementation of the K2 mission that gave Kepler a new lease on life. On Feb. 19, Howell became Division Chief for Space Sciences and Astrobiology.