Musk's SpaceX blasts planet hunter into orbit

Musk's SpaceX blasts planet hunter into orbit

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (Tess) started its journey into space aboard a Falcon 9 rocket at 6.51 pm on Wednesday, Xinhua news agency reported.

TESS will begin a two-year planet hunting mission, searching our solar-system for other alien worlds.

The mission project scientist Stephen Rinehart of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Maryland said that "TESS is the first step toward finding habitable planets". SpaceX successfully landed the rocket's first stage on a drone ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean, marking the 24th time SpaceX has recovered one of its boosters. SpaceX has reused 11 of the first stages already, although this particular Falcon 9 rocket was new.

"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".

In a tweet following the successful launch, NASA said: "It will spend the next 60 days getting to its proper orbit where it will search for unknown worlds beyond our solar system".

After the appropriate maneuvers lasting about two months, the NASA satellite telescope, which has a refrigerator size and weighs 318 kilos, will be placed in a highly elliptical orbit around the Earth, where no other boat has ever been fitted. Powerful telescopes such as Hubble and NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, due to launch in 2020, will also study the planetary atmospheres in detail.

Kepler 90 Nasa entdeckt acht Planeten in fremdem Sonnensystem
Why Did SpaceX Delay NASA TESS Launch?

However, Mr Zurbuchen noted TESS's discoveries are expected to bring us closer to answering that lingering question. George Ricker, of MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, serves as principal investigator for the mission.

"One of the many wonderful things that Kepler told us is that planets are everywhere and there are all kinds of planets out there", said Dr Patricia "Padi" Boyd, director of the TESS guest investigator programme at Nasa's Goddard Spaceflight Centre. TESS will search for new worlds outside our solar system for further study. By orbiting in resonance with the Moon, TESS will be able to maintain its path without using any fuel to course correct once it reaches orbit.

[For this mission] scientists divided the sky into 26 sectors.

The mission will explore a large number of stars based on transits of planets against the background stars.

TESS will use the same transit method Kepler used to find planets. NASA's satellite will look for stars 30 to 100 times brighter than those observed by the Kepler satellite launched in 2009. Said Hertz, "The planets that we are going to be most interested in looking for habitability are those that are rocky, and those that are the right temperature".

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