I am thrilled to announce that I was one of the bloggers chosen by NASA to get a behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming SpaceX Falcon 9 launch of TESS – the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite – on April 16th!
“NASA invited me to tour their facilities and see a launch” is a statement that I never could have imagined saying.
This is coming on the heels of a social media conference I’ll be attending in Vancouver on April 12th and 13th. So I’ll be spending almost a week in Canada, flying from Vancouver to Orlando on the 14th, and getting as immersed as I can in rockets and science and space on the 15th and 16th! I’ve never been to Canada, so I’m taking a couple days before the conference to visit museums and such (my girlfriend Emily wants me to try to find a moose – I’m not sure it’s a great idea, though), and then I’ll be staying basically right on the beach in Port Canaveral. So if you know any good restaurants in Vancouver or Port Canaveral, let me know in the comments section!
I am completely blown away by this opportunity and remain incredibly grateful to my followers for helping make this happen! Without your support, this wouldn’t be possible. I continue to be humbled by the opportunities this platform has created for me, and absolutely want to make the most out of it for all of you.
To keep up with everything I’ll be doing while at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, be sure you’re following A Science Enthusiast on Facebook (and click “see first” on the notification menu so you don’t miss a post) and follow me on twitter as @aSciEnthusiast!
The TESS Mission
So, ahem, my personal excitement aside, what exactly is TESS? It’s the next step in the search for other Earth-like planets in our galactic neighborhood.
TESS stands for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. The satellite will be launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket into orbit and will monitor planetary transits of other stars from space over two years. What this means, is the satellite will look for temporary drops in brightness from other stars that indicate the presence of an exoplanet – a planet outside of the solar system.
TESS will be in a highly elliptical orbit around Earth. The launch trajectory takes it as far out as the moon, where TESS gains a gravity assist for its transfer orbit in preparation for its final orbit around Earth. It will orbit every 13.7 days. The goal of the mission is to identify exoplanets in our stellar neighborhood, looking at around 2.5 million other stars! The hope is that we find a planet similar to Earth that could potentially harbor life as we know it.
The mission will look at an area 400 times larger than any other mission before, including the Kepler Mission, which also used the transit method to search for exoplanets. As the video below explains, TESS will be able to image 1/26th of the entire sky in a single shot!
The Kepler Mission sought to determine how common Earth-like planets are, while TESS will discover how many rocky planets are nearby. Kepler also only looked at 1/400th as much of the sky as TESS will.
The TESS mission is a precursor for the James Webb Space Telescope. TESS is essentially surveying the sky for the James Webb Space Telescope, to locate potential candidates for the JWST to look at more closely.
The JWST is far more powerful than the Hubble Telescope was. The JWST is 100 times as powerful as the Hubble! I get goosebumps thinking about how incredible the images we’ll get from the James Webb Telescope will be.
The Webb Telescope has the power to potentially give us even more detailed pictures of deep space, revealing even more breakthroughs in our understanding of the cosmos.