Tampa — On Wednesday, Nasa blasted off its newest planet-hunting spacecraft, Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a $337m satellite that aims to scan 85% of the skies for cosmic bodies where life may exist. "Three, two, one and lift off!" said Nasa commentator Mike Curie as the TESS soared into the cloudless, blue sky atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 10.51pm GMT. The washing machine-sized spacecraft is built to search outside the solar system, scanning the nearest, brightest stars for signs of periodic dimming. These so-called "transits" may mean that planets are in orbit around them. TESS is expected to reveal 20,000 planets beyond our solar system, including more than 50 Earth-sized planets and up to 500 planets less than twice the size of the Earth, Nasa said. Its discoveries will be studied further by ground-and space-based telescopes for signs of habitability, including a rocky terrain, a size similar to Earth and a distance from their sun ...

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