The search for cosmic real estate is about to begin anew.
No earlier than 6:32 p.m. on April 16, in NASA’s fractured parlance, a little spacecraft known as the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or Tess, bristling with cameras and ambition, will ascend on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in a blaze of smoke and fire from the old Apollo launching pad here and take up a lengthy residence between the moon and the Earth.
There it will spend the next two years, at least, scanning the sky for alien worlds.
Tess is the latest effort to try to answer questions that have intrigued humans for millenniums and dominated astronomy for the last three decades: Are we alone? Are there other Earths? Evidence of even a single microbe anywhere else in the galaxy would rock science.
Sara Seager, a planetary scientist at MIT and a member of the Tess team, shares her hopes and expectations.
Read the full story at NYT Science.