planet

NASA’s new planet hunter blasts off

MNA Science & Tech Desk: NASA blasted off its newest planet hunting spacecraft, TESS, a $337 million satellite that aims to scan 85 percent of the skies for cosmic bodies where life may exist.

“Three, two, one and liftoff!” said NASA commentator Mike Curie as the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) soared into the cloudless, blue sky atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 6:51 pm (2251 GMT).

The washing machine-sized spacecraft is built to search outside the solar system, scanning the nearest, brightest stars for signs of periodic dimming. These so-called “transits” may mean that planets are in orbit around them.

TESS is expected to reveal 20,000 planets beyond our solar system, including more than 50 Earth-sized planets and up to 500 planets less than twice the size of the Earth, NASA said.

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