Funding for Kepler was supposed to run out this November, but a review committee has OK’d the mission through fiscal year 2016.
“The Kepler mission is an outstanding success,” committee members wrote, according to space.com. “Kepler is not only a unique source of exoplanet discoveries, but also an organizing and rallying point for exoplanet research.”
The $600 million mission was launched in March 2009 in order to find Earth-sized planets, and has already located 2,300 potential and 61 confirmed alien planets. The Kepler team has asserted that 80 percent or more of the candidates will end up being actual planets, some capable of supporting life.
Extending the funding for this mission will allow more time to find more planets. The longer the mission is in space, the more likely it is to find planets because the signals it sends out to detect planets will be able to return from longer distances.
Currently, it costs about $20 million to operate Kepler, according to the review committee.