Last updated July 20, 2018 at 3:02 pm
SpaceX have released this incredible photograph of the fire and fury involved in the launch of TESS last week in Florida.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite launched from Cape Canaveral on April 18, embarking on its mission to hunt for planets which may be able to support life.
Lifting off the pad at 18:51 EDT, the Falcon 9 unleashed its nine Merlin engines producing 7,607kN of thrust, the spectacle of which is captured in this photograph.
The first stage returned to land on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You 9 minutes after liftoff, a feat which is now routine but still makes us giddy with excitement. However, unlike 11 previous launches which reused previously launched rockets, the Falcon 9 launching TESS was brand new.
Unlike its predecessor Kepler, which only searched a region of the galaxy, TESS will image over 85% of the sky over the next two years – around 350 times the area searched by Kepler.
It’s expected to monitor at least 200,000 stars searching for exoplanets with the potential to support life.
“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,” said Lisa Kaltenegger from the TESS science team.