NASA and SpaceX launch planet-hunting TESS satellite

NASA and SpaceX launch planet-hunting TESS satellite

NASA and SpaceX launch planet-hunting TESS satellite

NASA has blasted off its newest planet-hunting spacecraft, TESS, a $337 million satellite that aims to scan 85 percent of the skies for cosmic bodies where life may exist.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to blast off with the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, satellite from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 6:51 p.m. EDT. TESS will look closer to home, but with a much broader view, with its four cameras scanning an area 400 times larger than Kepler did, while focusing on stars and planets within 200 light years.

"The stories of these planets will continue on, long after their detection", Martin Still, TESS program scientist, said on Wednesday.

The launch was intended for April 16, but was been pushed back while the SpaceX team completed further analysis of the Falcon 9's guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) systems.

"One of the many incredible things that Kepler told us is that planets are everywhere and there are all kinds of planets out there", said Patricia "Padi" Boyd, director of the TESS guest investigator program at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center. NASA has touted the satellite as its "next step" in discovering additional exoplanets outside of our solar system.

For more about TESS, check out our earlier story and the mission website. TESS is expected to discover close to 50 planets for further study.

Minutes after launch, SpaceX plans to land the Falcon 9's first-stage booster on an autonomous drone ship named "Of Course I Still Love You", hundreds of miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Boiling atmospheres, roiling winds, dead shells of entities once vibrant - scientists have discovered some pretty awesome exoplanets in the past few years.

Life might be out there, whether microbial or more advanced, and scientists say Tess and later missions will help answer the age-old question of whether we're alone.

The mission will find exoplanets that periodically block part of the light from their host stars, events called transits.

"You can think of TESS as the finder scope for the James Webb Space Telescope", astrophysicist Padi Boyd, TESS deputy project scientist, told CBS News. The majority of stars in the Tess survey will be 300 light-years to 500 light-years away, according to Ricker.

A planet should cause a slight, brief dip in its star's brightness as it passes right in front.

On April 18, a new telescope with an eye for exoplanets will launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the first of a coming wave of post-Hubble telescopes that will search the sky for foreign worlds.

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