NASA's TESS - the planet hunter - launched successfully

Posted April 20, 2018

Zurbuchen said: "We are thrilled Tess is on its way to help us discover worlds we have yet to imagine, worlds that could possibly be habitable, or harbour life".

TESS will build upon the legacy of NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, which launched in 2009 and has since identified more than 2,300 confirmed exoplanets. The first stage of the Falcon was reported to have landed on the drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic".

NASA HAS LAUNCHED a spaceship created to scan the skies for signs of planets where life may exist outside of our solar system. The Tess satellite, meanwhile, kept heading toward orbit with help from the Falcon rocket's second stage.

"TESS is doing a survey of stars which can be easily followed up by ground-based and space telescopes, sweeping across 85% of the sky in just two years".

Barring any malfunctions, the TESS spacecraft will now settle into orbit and begin searching for planets around the nearest, brightest stars, building up our catalogue of alien worlds that are close enough to be scrutinized for signs of life. The satellite known as Tess will survey nearly the entire sky, staring at the brightest, closest stars in an effort to find any planets that might be encircling them.

"With Kepler, we now know the planets exist, we have the size of the planets and in some cases, we have the masses", said Dr. Stephen Rinehart, a project scientist for the mission at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "The idea of finding other things on other planets sparks things in people", Robert Lockwood, TESS spacecraft manager at Orbital ATK, told Observer.

TESS was developed together with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others. TESS will search for new worlds outside our solar system for further study. TESS is budgeted for one year of ground work and two years in space, though its mission life can be extended up to almost two decades, which would greatly increase the amount of data gained from the mission.

That technical capability should see TESS complete its full-sky survey of around half a million relatively local stars within two years, first short-listing 5000 transit-like signals for direct imaging, before Doppler spectroscopy determines planet masses.

TESS will observe "transits", or the phenomena when a planet passes in front of its star, changing the star's brightness.

TESS scientists expect the mission will catalog thousands of planet candidates and vastly increase the current number of known exoplanets. Numerous leaders of the TESS mission and the field of exoplanet studies in general were trained in an era when we truly didn't know if our sun was uniquely well endowed. TESS will focus on stars between 30 and 300 light-years away and 30 to 100 times brighter than Kepler's targets.

Sara Seager, another MIT researcher who is working on the satellite, said TESS may enlighten us as to whether Earth has a twin planet out there.