Final Preparations for New NASA Planet-Hunter

posted by Alan McBride - 

NASA reports that the agency's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, is undergoing final preparations at the Cape for its April 16 launch.

The mission of TESS is to find undiscovered worlds around nearby stars, providing targets where future studies will assess their capacity to harbor life.

TESS investigators say one of the biggest questions in exoplanet exploration is: If an astronomer finds a planet in a star’s habitable zone, will it be interesting from a biologist's point of view?

TESS, according to scientists, is expected to discover a number of planets orbiting nearby bright stars. 

Combined with ground-based observations, and those from the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, scientists say they'll have an unprecedented chance to study the atmospheric compositions of worlds orbiting those stars.

Some of those studies could help scientists learn whether of not the atmospheres of some of these worlds hold clues to favorable conditions for life as we understand it.

TESS will launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket in April from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. 

With the help of a gravity assist from the Moon, the spacecraft will settle into a 13.7-day orbit around Earth. 

Sixty days after launch, and following tests of its instruments, scientists say the satellite will begin its initial two-year mission.

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