Borucki remained the chief investigator for the Kepler space telescope until his retirement in 2015. Image credit: NASA Ames
As a cub scout, William Borucki recalls peering through a telescope at a night sky filled with stars. It was, he said, the moment when he felt a connection with space and it sparked a lifelong and curious obsession to find out more. At that moment in his life, he dreamed of the possibilities of potential new worlds. That he ended up having a major hand in detecting scores of Earth-size planets around other stars in the habitable zone seems rather fitting in retrospect.
Borucki was born in Chicago in 1939 and he grew up in a small town called Delavan in Wisconsin. He spent time as a young boy launching homemade rockets, fuelling his desire to study for a masters in physics at the University of Wisconsin. Graduating in 1962, he immediately found work at NASA. He would stay there for 53 years, spending the first ten years studying the radiation environment of entry vehicles as he worked on designing heat shields for the Apollo missions.
During the 1970s, he developed photochemical models of the Earth’s stratosphere and mesosphere as ...