Saturday, 26 May, 2018

Launch delay for NASA's newest planet-hunting spacecraft

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Sherri Watson | 17 April, 2018, 11:13

NASA is all set to launch its next hunt for planets outside our solar system as preparations get underway for the launch of the TESS satellite, which will be carried into space in a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Tuesday morning.

The launch is now scheduled for Wednesday evening. "We expect TESS will discover a number of planets whose atmospheric compositions, which hold potential clues to the presence of life, could be precisely measured by future observers".

Watch the launch live on WINK News Wednesday at 6:51 p.m. Falcon 9 first stages perform engine maneuvers in space that send them back to Earth, where they can land on an offshore drone ship or landing pads near their launch sites.

This mission will take about two years. These events are called transits, hence TESS' name.

"On average the stars that TESS observes are 30-100 times brighter and 10 times closer than the stars that Kepler focused on".

"But since then, we have found thousands of planets orbiting others stars and we think all the stars in our galaxy must have their own family of planets".

"TESS is opening a door for a whole new kind of study", said Stephen Rinehart, TESS project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, which manages the mission. The targets TESS finds are going to be fantastic subjects for research for decades to come. This first-ever spaceborne all-sky transit survey will identify planets ranging from Earth-sized to gas giants, around a wide range of stellar types and orbital distances.

"Humans have wondered forever whether we were alone in the universe, and until 25 years ago the only planets we knew about were the eight in our own solar system", he told reporters on the eve of the TESS launch.