NASA Leans on AI to Search for Intelligent Life

Artist concept of TESS in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star

Artist concept of TESS in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star. Image credit NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

SpaceX has rescheduled the launch of NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, for Wednesday at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It will take two months for Tess to reach its final scientific orbit, which will stretch all the way to the moon. The targets TESS finds are going to be fantastic subjects for research for decades to come.

SpaceX said all systems and weather were "go" for blast-off on Wednesday of its first high-priority science mission for NASA, a planet-hunting space telescope whose launch was delayed for two days by a rocket-guidance glitch.

In all, it's expected to get a look at more than 200,000 stars and find about 1,600 planets, among them several dozen about the size of the Earth, and several hundred larger planets up to twice the size of Earth.

Scientists speculate that the habitable or so-called Goldilocks zone - the distance from a star where it's neither too hot nor too cold to support life, but just right with the potential for liquid water at the surface - should be much closer to red dwarfs than it is in our own solar system.

The mission launch can be watched live via webcast on SpaceX's website or on NASA TV.

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Most of the exoplanets discovered by the Kepler satellite, a telescope that has been spotting planets from space since 2009, have been orbiting distant, faint stars. After launch, the rocket's first stage is set to attempt a landing on the SpaceX drone ship Of Course I Still Love You.

Boiling atmospheres, roiling winds, dead shells of entities once vibrant - scientists have discovered some pretty incredible exoplanets in the past few years. TESS will scan an area 350 times greater than Kepler. These are periodic dips in starlight that occur when a planet's orbit takes it in front of its host star.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, during assembly and checkout.

NASA also confirmed that at 7:53 pm (2353 GMT), the spacecraft's twin solar arrays successfully deployed. In addition, they hope to explore the atmospheres of these planets through spectroscopy, and search for evidence of life.

Forecast was nearly ideal with 90% favorable weather outlook, only a slight concern that cumulus clouds might get really big. The Tess satellite, meanwhile, kept heading toward orbit with help from the Falcon rocket's second stage. TESS' discoveries will then be examined in greater detail by the James Webb Space Telescope, successor to the wildly successful Hubble, scheduled for launch in 2020.

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