In the weeks to come, there will more chances to explore new worlds that orbit distant stars with NASA about to launch a new spacecraft. The American space agency is hoping this new aircraft will lead the world into finding out more about the universe. It hopes that it will expand the list of known planets that scientists believe capable of supporting life.
The new satellite NASA plans to launch is called Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, in short, TESS. It will be launched from Florida, in the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The private company SpaceX will provide the Falcon 9 rocket that the agency will use in sending the satellite into Earth orbit.
NASA officials claim that that the launch could happen in as early as April 16. It is expected that this mission could last around two years, which will cost about $337million. The satellite will use the latest of the agency’s astrophysics effort in the Kepler space telescope. The said telescope was used to discover around 3,500 exoplanets that the agency documented over the last 20 years.
The discovery made using this telescope made significant changes in one of the early areas in space science. TESS is expected to make great progress in searching for more unknown worlds. NASA researchers have firm belief that there are hundreds of worlds. They believe there are planets that could be the size of Earth or even in “super-Earth” size out in space.
It means there could be a planet out there with a size twice as human's home planet. These worlds are what experts believe to have the greatest chance to have oceans or rocky surfaces. If they are so, it would be a sign of a promising candidate for life unlike Neptune and Jupiter, which although big but are gas-based planets.
Using TESS, NASA astronomers are hoping they can find around a hundred more of these rocky exoplanets that they could study in the future. It will take around 60 days before the new satellite reaches its own special orbit, one that is first-of-a-kind. In the duration of two and a half weeks, this orbit will be sending the satellite in between moon and Earth.
On the other hand, the Kepler satellite’s positioning system ceased operating in 2013. Scientists are able to find a way to keep it working but its fuel is just about to be nearly used. NASA’s astrophysics department will be making this perfect timing to launch TESS to continue the activity of observing planets and stars that could mean there is life in the universe.