SpaceX rocket booster lands on floating platform

TESS Mission - NASA Blogs

NASA's TESS spacecraft launched successfully on Thursday (Australian time) from Cape Canaveral, Florida, kick-starting a new era of exoplanet discovery that will focus on finding planets in our own stellar neighbourhood.

It will survey a swathe of stars, hoping to detect worlds that might be capable of harboring life.

"This mission Tess is super important for us", Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX's vice president of mission assurance, said during a press briefing ahead of the event.

It was the eighth launch of the year for SpaceX, which most recently launched a resupply mission to the International Space Station on April 2. It will take two months for Tess to reach its final scientific orbit, which will stretch all the way to the moon. A data pipeline has been established so that TESS can fulfill its mission.

TESS's orbital stability relies on the gravities of Earth and the Moon, keeping it on track without expending any fuel.

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket seen carrying the Tess planet-hunting spacecraft into orbit. "Once we're in orbit, we can survive for decades without any additional propulsion". NASA's Kepler spacecraft used the same method.

"Kepler was a "statistical mission", explains Guerrero, "meaning it carefully measured everything within a specific patch of sky it observed and completed a "census" of the stars in that field of view". TESS will be able to search 350 times more area of the sky than Kepler can, and is expected to find about 20,000 exoplanets in its first two years alone. NASA plans to operate TESS until at least 2020. TESS principal investigator George Ricker, who is from the Massachusetts Institute of Technolgy said that "TESS is going to dramatically increase the number of planets that we have to study". Tess will be looking at stars that are between 30 and 300 light years away and up to 100 times brighter than what Kepler was staring at. But TESS, short for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is created to identify thousands more, opening our eyes even further to the diversity of worlds in our universe.

"We learned from Kepler that there are more planets than stars in our sky, and now TESS will open our eyes to the variety of planets around some of the closest stars", Hertz said.

"The Kepler space telescope found an astounding number of exoplanets, but majority are many, many light years away, too dim for us to learn much about them", Lisa Kaltenegger, exoplanet scientist at Cornell University, said in a statement.

"The sky will become more lovely, will become more awesome", NASA's top science administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said. "And even, maybe, ones that have thin atmospheres reminiscent of Earth's".

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