NASA's Planet-Hunting Satellite to Launch on April 18

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NASA's Planet-Hunting Satellite to Launch on April 18

TAMPA-Nasa is poised to launch a $337 million washing machine-sized spacecraft that aims to vastly expand mankind's search for planets beyond our solar system, particularly closer, Earth-sized ones that might harbor life. The mission is expected to create a database of thousands of new planet candidates that could increase the space agency's current figure of exoplanets. The planet-hunting spacecraft will use a special, highly-elliptical orbit, with a 2:1 lunar resonance, shows Spaceflight 101.

When Tess does get up, it will stare at stars for weeks at a time, hoping to catch the dips in brightness that occur when orbiting worlds traverse their faces.

The Tess satellite will scan nearly the entire sky, staring at the brightest, closest stars in an effort to find any planets that might be encircling them.

A private sector space transportation firm founded and run by Tesla's Elon Musk, SpaceX has conducted launches for NASA in the past as well.

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It promises an ability to resolve the atmospheres of some of the new worlds, to look for gases that might hint at the presence of life. But Kepler, for its primary mission at least, only looked at a very small patch of sky, and many of its discoveries were simply too far away or too dim for other telescopes to pursue with further analysis.

NASA Scientists believe they will find some giant planets, like Jupiter, but will also find planets that are similar in size to Earth.

"This is the reason we're all so excited", said Jessie Christiansen, an astronomer at Caltech and NASA's Exoplanet Science Institute who sits on the steering committee for TESS's follow-up working group.

Bill Chaplin is an astroseismologist from Birmingham University, UK.

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"We can measure the stars' fundamental properties. It's like we're making a treasure map", Guerrero said. "So, in essence we can do the equivalent of an ultrasound scan on them". "TESS is kind of like a scout", said Natalia Guerrero, deputy manager of TESS Objects of Interest, an MIT-led effort that will catalogue objects captured in TESS data that may be potential exoplanets. "That is about 20 times what the Kepler mission was able to detect".

By focusing on planets dozens to hundreds of light-years way, TESS may enable future breakthroughs, he said.

Sure enough, after an hour, the spacecraft restarted, re-orientated itself and sent a message back to Earth that it was alive and well.

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