NASA is to launch a washing machine-sized spacecraft that aims to vastly expand mankind’s search for planets beyond solar system, particularly closer, Earth-sized ones that might harbor life.
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, TESS, launched Monday from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Its main goal over the next two years is to scan more than 200,000 of the brightest stars for signs of planets circling them and causing a dip in brightness known as a transit. TESS scientist at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center Elisa Quintana said, the satellite is going to be orbiting the nearest brightest stars and might find planets that orbit stars which can even see with the naked eye.
TESS is designed as a follow-on to the US space agency’s Kepler spacecraft, which was the first of its kind and launched in 2009. The aging spacecraft is currently low on fuel and near the end of its life.