NASA’s new satellite telescope, designed to hunt for planets outside our solar system — some which may harbor life — is scheduled to launch on April 16 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The telescope, known as Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, signals a new era in exoplanet research that could shed light on planets in our neighboring solar systems.
Lisa Kaltenegger is director of Cornell University’s Carl Sagan Institute and one of the world’s leading experts on exoplanets. She serves as a member on the TESS science team and will be at the launch and available for media interviews. She says TESS is important because it will find exoplanets “in our cosmic backyard.”
“The Kepler space telescope found an astounding number of exoplanets, but most of them are many, many light years away, too dim for us to learn much about them. That’s why TESS is so important: it will find exoplanets around stars in our cosmic backyard. TESS will provide a list of our top neighboring worlds for any follow up observations, as well as any far future travel plans.
“TESS is small but it is mighty, because it will search the whole sky, all the bright stars we can see at night, for worlds orbiting them. When looking up at night, we will be able to point at bright stars in the night sky and say - right there, there is a star that hosts another Venus, Mars, or maybe even another Earth.
“I can't wait to see TESS launch, and participate as the next step in human exploration of new worlds takes shape.”
TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.