TESS, a new NASA planet-hunting spacecraft, is set to write the next revolutionary chapter in astronomy by revealing more details about the nearest exoplanets and, perhaps, uncovering the first signs of life seen beyond our spinning rock.
For centuries we knew of no planets beyond this solar system, until the first trickle of exoplanet discoveries in the 1990s.
Over the past several years NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has accelerated the pace of discovery, making it clear the galaxy is awash with planets. But Kepler is crippled and running out of fuel.
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Fortunately, its successor, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is waiting in the wings. More accurately, it’s sitting in the nose cone of a rocket in Florida.
TESS is scheduled to launch Monday aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, one of many missions Elon Musk’s rocket company has partnered on with NASA.
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