NASA’s Kepler mission is one of the furthest advanced of all of the missions designed to search for extrasolar planets, and is due for launch next year. I’ve just listened to a NASA science press briefing, which included lots of good stuff from right across planetary science and astrophysics. (The highlight was probably details of a Cassini flyby of Enceladus due for next March.)
Most of it was an overview of things to come, but there was one point of interest. In order to avoid cost overruns, Kepler’s main science mission has been reduced from 4 years to 3 and a half years; this will mean the same number of targets will be studied, but the best guess is that there will be an 11% decrease in planet detections. Obviously if the mission is successful then there will probably be an extended lifetime, but the pressure is now on.