Live Stream Launch of NASA' TESS Planet Hunter Today

The JWST is currently being readied for launch. NASA  Chris Gunn

The JWST is currently being readied for launch. NASA Chris Gunn

The Launch team of the TESS is standing down in order to run a test involving the guidance navigation system and control analysis of the rocket.

"It was meant to take a gander at 150,000 stars in a genuinely wide field of view without flickering, for a long time", she told columnists on the eve of the dispatch.

SpaceX will feel vindicated following a recent investigation finding it devoid of blame in the loss of the secret Zuma satellite in January, but NASA scientists will still be feeling slightly anxious with the launch of TESS.

"We can start to find out, how does planet occurrence vary as a function of the type of star and the age of the star?"

An illustration of the TESS spacecraft in orbit.

Ricker said: 'TESS is going to dramatically increase the number of planets that we have to study. They look for dimming of the star's light when a planet passes in front of it.

TESS, which follows the successful Kepler mission and the follow-up K2 mission, will survey 200,000 of the brightest stars near the sun to search for transiting exoplanets.

TESS builds on the success of similar missions such as Kepler, but whereas Kepler was limited to a field of view that covered 115 square degrees, or around 0.25 percent of the sky, TESS will look at the whole sky all at once. It was proposed two years later as an important NASA mission and eventually approved in 2013. No satellites have been put into this orbit thus far. There, too, the telescope found other exoplanets, but also focused on other celestial bodies and phenomena, such as supernova explosions, star systems, asteroids and comets.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) may find thousands of worlds relatively close to Earth. After its two-year mission, TESS will be replaced by the James Webb Space Telescope, a space telescope scheduled to launch in May 2020. Of those, around 500 are expected to be Earth-sized or super-Earth planets (planets with a greater mass than Earth), and some should sit in the habitual, or Goldilocks, zone around their respective star. "Now TESS will open our eyes to the variety of planets around some of the closest stars".

"The most important thing, I think, would be to find signs of water vapor in a small planet atmosphere, because all life as we know it needs liquid water", says Seager, who notes that at the moment, "we're very far from knowing that something is like Earth out there".

Coverage of the launch has garnered particular attention, but what exactly is TESS and what does it hope to achieve?

"The spacecraft and the launch vehicle are ready to go", said Omar Baez, launch director for NASA's Launch Services Program at a prelaunch news conference last night from NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

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