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Beyond Kepler: Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite Set For 2017 Launch

timothy posted about a year ago | from the it-is-in-fact-made-of-starstuff dept.

Space 43

astroengine writes "NASA has selected a $200 million mission to carry out a full-sky survey for exoplanets orbiting nearby stars. The space observatory, called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, is scheduled for a 2017 launch. Like the currently operational Kepler Space Telescope, TESS will be in the lookout for exoplanets that orbit in front of their host stars, resulting in a slight dip in starlight. This dip is known as a "transit" and Kepler has revolutionized our understanding about planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy by applying this effective technique. As of January 2013, Kepler has spotted 2,740 exoplanetary candidates. "TESS will carry out the first space-borne all-sky transit survey, covering 400 times as much sky as any previous mission," said TESS lead scientist George Ricker, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. "It will identify thousands of new planets in the solar neighborhood, with a special focus on planets comparable in size to the Earth.""

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imagine (1, Offtopic)

etash (1907284) | about a year ago | (#43385317)

if half the budget the US spends for the military went towards space exploration

Re:imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43385363)

Imagine if a Slashdot article about science actually had people that wanted to talk about science instead of politics.

Re:imagine (-1, Offtopic)

etash (1907284) | about a year ago | (#43385389)

imagine if a slashdot article had no people who wanted to measure their e-peens by posting smart-ass replies.

Re:imagine (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43385427)

I try to imagine that your mom didn't give me chlamydia. The lesson here is that imagining doesn't do shit. We've got to deal with the reality that we live in.

Re:imagine (1)

etash (1907284) | about a year ago | (#43385439)

if the primates followed your logic we'd still be on the trees.

Re:imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43385519)

Don't talk about your mother that way! She's a lovely woman, even if she is a bit hairy and has a crotch that looks like it was infested by the Zerg. Don't blame her for your fetal alcohol syndrome. Crack and booze were the only ways she could numb the pain of whoring.

Re:imagine (0)

etash (1907284) | about a year ago | (#43385539)

random troll on the internet tries to make me angry. please stop, my cat is already crying.

Re:imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43387457)

random troll on the internet succeeds. please, stop feeding them.

SyFy (1)

dadelbunts (1727498) | about a year ago | (#43386001)

Imagine greater

Re:imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43385435)

OK, let's talk about science. I know that most basic science ends up making discoveries or causing development of technologies that pertain to other fields and end up in applied science and go on to make "cool stuff" for us. But - what does a study like this hope to learn? We know these exoplanets are out there. We also know that we aren't going to be sending a probe to them any time soon. So why try to do some sort of semi-complete survey like this at this time? By the time we do have some tech that could get to any of these places we'd need a more up to date survey anyway. What does this one gain us? (other than the already stated updates to basic science and technology). I mean the data they are gathering - what use is it going to be?

Re:imagine (4, Insightful)

Kamots (321174) | about a year ago | (#43385499)

We don't know. That's one reason to do it.

What does it mean if the survey shows that for a group of 10 stars you have a 95% probability of at least 8 having at least one planet?
What does it mean if the survey shows this for 95% of the surveyed area except for a continuous section where there is only 1 planet per 100 stars?

What new knowledge would come from trying to understand what caused this? Perhaps we discover something new about fundamental physics?

The point is that we don't know what we don't know. This may be what discovers something previously completely unsuspected and with earth-shattering possibilities... or... we could just learn that there's a lot of planets out there and nothing more. But without doing it, there's no chance of discovering the former. Observing what's around us is how we learn more and start to question things we otherwise never would have known even existed to question.

Re:imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43385535)

Here is something I do know: over 5 million children in the United States will go to bed hungry tonight. $200 million would solve that problem for a month. They don't give a shit about planets we'll never get to transiting stars they'll never see. And the budget of the US government will not be balanced for at least 10 more years. We're basically dreaming up pointless missions and throwing the bill on the credit card. Those hungry children will be paying for them when they are old enough to work at their minimum wage jobs. This country is so fucked up.

Re:imagine (2, Funny)

etash (1907284) | about a year ago | (#43385557)

then please ask your employer lockheed martin to sell 10 less f-16 to the government to help into balancing the budget.

Re:imagine (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43385637)


Does this sound heartless? Maybe it is, but your "think of the children" argument is pretty fucking manipulative (as is fas etash's F-16 counterargument).

Will science eventually cure disease and poverty? It is plausible. But any delay in research is compounded. What if we took all the money we spent on healthcare and used it for research? Millions would die. But it might achieve the technology to save millions more. What if we killed social security and used it to figure out how to mine asteroids? Millions of people would fall into poverty. But maybe millions would be lifted out of it due to new technologies. This is the problem with putting social and science spending against each other. Everybody always thinks about curing the social problems at the expense of science. But perhaps the real cure to social problems will occur by enabling science and giving it a priority over social programs.

Re:imagine (3, Interesting)

sribe (304414) | about a year ago | (#43385679)

Here is something I do know: over 5 million children in the United States will go to bed hungry tonight.

No they won't. That sound bite comes from a series of ridiculous distortions of the underlying data. In essence, 5 million children are at risk that some time during the month their parents (or other caregivers) will not provide them the meals they had planned to--and at that meal most of them will not even go hungry, they'll be fed cheaper food, and probably never even know about it.

Re:imagine (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about a year ago | (#43386409)

over 400,000 Iraq women and children won't be going to bed hungry, because we spent billions of dollars and fucking killed them.

shut up about spending $200M, it's peanuts, no one will be killed, and it might just make the most profound discover in the history of human science.

Re:imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43387557)

Here's something I do know: The US spent enough on killing people in 2011 to feed those kids at the same price you give here for the next ~416 YEARS. And you think spending a couple bucks to enhance human understanding of the universe is what makes things fucked up?

Re:imagine (2)

a_hanso (1891616) | about a year ago | (#43387831)

over 5 million children in the United States will go to bed hungry tonight. $200 million would solve that problem for a month.

What about the next month? Should we sacrifice another long term program to temporarily alleviate a *symptom*? If people had listened this type of argument a hundred years ago, we might not have commercial aviation or satellites today. Those may not feed people directly, but they've contributed a great deal to flattening out the world, reducing conflicts and improving education.

World hunger is not a symptom of lack of food. If you keep throwing food at the problem, it'll never go away.

Re:imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43393445)

I seriously doubt any child, in the USA, will be going to bed hungry tonight. We spend more money on Food Stamps ($50B) then we do on NASA (~$20B). Plus there is a the kickstart program that provides breakfast to every student at a school whether they want it or not. And when a kid gets the kickstart breakfast, they do not take away money from the Food Stamps allotment.

The only people in america that look like they are starving (images of Ethiopia from the 80's) are people suffering from Anorexia/Bulimia. This country has an obesity problem,including the children.

Re:imagine (1)

a_hanso (1891616) | about a year ago | (#43387861)

I don't know about gains in applied sciences, but just imagine if we subject these planets to closer scrutiny and discover something like EM emissions that could only be from something artificial? Of all the things that have ever awed or shocked humans, I think nothing would compare with the discovery of intelligent life outside our planet.

We can't possibly imagine how people will react. But I imagine it will adjust the sense of proportion for a lot of people, politically and spiritually, as in "We're a lot less special than we think we are" and "We're not all that different from each other because there are things that are a LOT more different from us out there".

Re:imagine (1)

tloh (451585) | about a year ago | (#43386221)

what does a study like this hope to learn? What does this one gain us? (other than the already stated updates to basic science and technology). I mean the data they are gathering - what use is it going to be?

Another mystery has fallen under the concerted scrutiny of human curiosity. Another jewel we've acquired to bring wonder and awe to our children. And during this journey, we - some of us - have discovered something about what we are capable of achieving when we put our minds to it.

Re:imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43385737)

Imagine if there were more nerds to hire than jocks.

Re:imagine (1)

ModernGeek (601932) | about a year ago | (#43386497)

Dumping more money into a problem or idea doesn't automatically solve it. I'd say that NASA has a fair budget, and they always seem to get the money they need; especially if the idea is a well thought out one.

Re:imagine (1)

kilodelta (843627) | about a year ago | (#43386655)

We'd be at least at Alpha Centauri, possibly further out by now. It's all a perfect example of opportunity cost. I'd much prefer we spend the money on space exploration and science in general than to perpetuate a military based on a war that no longer exists.

Re:imagine (3, Insightful)

Jeremi (14640) | about a year ago | (#43386851)

We'd be at least at Alpha Centauri, possibly further out by now.

I like spending big money on space exploration as much as the next guy, but Alpha Centauri is 4.3 light-years away. If a mission to Alpha Centauri was launched in 1958 (the year NASA was created), it would have had to travel at an average speed of .078c in order to arrive this year.

It's hard to imagine that we could have come up with technology capable of that, even if we spent our entire GDP on developing space technology.

Mars, OTOH, or other locations in our own solar system, sure.

Re:imagine (2)

kilodelta (843627) | about a year ago | (#43386923)

There are a number of projects currently underway, some NASA sponsored, some not that would do things that would increase the speed of spacecraft. On the more immediate front is the fusion drive that could get us to Mars in a bit over a month. On the more cutting edge is the FTL group at NASA working on WARP drive. They took the Alcubierre drive and determined you didn't need a reaction mass the size of say Jupiter but a more manageable ton or two.

Re:imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43388429)

Yes, they reduced the amount of never before seen, and unknown if it exists material needed, but not the need for such a material. They haven;t addressed any of the other issues that would prevent us from using such a drive even if we had more than enough of such exotic matter for zero cost. There is really still no idea how to go about constructing such a drive, even if given an infinite budget and resources. While it is good to have people working on that in case they get lucky and find a way around such limitations, with no indication that it is even possible as is, don't expect them to get much resources compared to ideas that have a much, much higher chance of actually working.

Also, using the most optimistic estimates of specific impulse for fusion rockets, to get to the speed of 0.078c as the previous poster was suggesting, you would need a rocket that had 300 trillion times as much fuel as payload mass. The fuel for a 100 kg payload (including the fuel tank in that mass...) would take about 3 million years to produce at current US hydrogen production levels (ignoring that a significant fraction of that would need to be D-T or D-He3), and would amount to a mass about 1% of the whole of Earth's atmosphere.

Re:imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43387367)

Somehow I think high-energy physics experiments in propulsion might be better experimented in some orbit far outside Earth's.

Good! (1)

drwho (4190) | about a year ago | (#43385425)

This is good, I think this is more interesting than looking at distant galaxies.

Re:Good! (3, Insightful)

idji (984038) | about a year ago | (#43385527)

not more interesting, just different - both are incredibly valuable and interesting - and they will both have effects on each other.

Thank you (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43385463)

Adana jigolo []
Thann you that info

What's the use? (1)

AnotherAnonymousUser (972204) | about a year ago | (#43385561)

I'm a die-hard space buff, and love hearing about projects like these. The developed world is often in a good position that people tend to give funding (however marginal) towards enginerds that want to push the limits of what we know, and I'm glad that we're seeing some increased awareness with the Kepler project.

I tried to explain to someone who was born after the trips to the moon (I am too) what the importance of space exploration is and how it benefits us all across the board, but he didn't personally see a purpose to pursuing the sciences, least of all the space program. It was too far away for him, or for his concerns. It got me thinking - this is probably the average tax payer. They enjoy the benefits of research and development and scientific endeavors, but they don't actively care about how it's done, and if questioned on the subject, would probably be easily convinced that their government shouldn't be spending money on "frivolities". Science brings tomorrow into today in a constantly rolling motion, but they just reap the benefits without caring where it comes from.

I love this project, and I get totally psyched at the idea of mapping out or galaxy with increasing precision and knowledge of what's out there. But $200 million is a fairly large chunk of change. Does it serve a practical use to people, that I can tell them when I encounter people like the one above in the future? We've had a lot of breakthroughs and projects that are successfully analyzing and discovering these exo-planets constantly - is this ever-increasing knowledge of stuff that's really, really far away likely to be put to use on more local projects? Having increasingly detailed maps of the universe is a great thing, but without a means to get there, is there valuable research we can do beyond just knowing what's there?

Re:What's the use? (1)

Kjella (173770) | about a year ago | (#43385757)

Probably not, but the people who don't see further than their nose saying "How will this make MY life better?" to everything will say no to all basic science and plenty other subjects that don't result in any direct, tangible returns. When finally you have graphene transistors to make the iPhone 23GS then he'll care to spend money on it, but not today on what might possibly emerge as a technology in a decade or three. I don't know, maybe we find out something useful about our own planet by studying others like it, maybe we won't. But either way it's probably not going to be fast enough for some people. They apply the same ideas to politics and taxes as the CEOs that are only looking on next quarter's figures, cutting costs now make the figures look good short term. Long term the jobs disappear to China and India because you stopped exploring and innovating.

Re:What's the use? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43386051)

Science Value: working in science I can assure you that funding agencies put a dollar figure on any given science effort in direct proportion to its novelty aka coolness.

An all sky planet survey with a focus on the nearest stars is the first step to identification of earth sized planets of habitable temperature.


Follow up telescope(s) to directly image candidate worlds will cost considerably more -- in the tens of billions. If one takes the jaundiced view -- yes this is an astronomer job program of ever increasing financial commitment. Why do it? Why do anything? Because stagnation is anathema to this caffeinated always on cyber civilization.

Re:What's the use? (4, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | about a year ago | (#43386381)

no, $200M is not a large amount of money; we spend billions to kill and maim innocents for power and wealth; and you're fixated on this chump change?

"pursuing the sciences" has doubled human lifespan, raised the standard of living over the last four centuries, made possible global communication and the storage of mankind's accumulated knowledge. it's worth it.

Re:What's the use? (1)

AnotherAnonymousUser (972204) | about a year ago | (#43395659)

Yes, but there are *countless* scientific endeavors that are always vying for funding. It's not the amount in question, but rather that these projects are evaluated for expected gain/return. One of the commenters remarked that press is a big return, and he's very right. What are some of the other intended/hoped for results with this project that got it funded over the others? That's the question I'm asking, and something I'd really love the answer to, because I'm curious what it is that scientists want to learn from this, and what they have in mind for what to do with it once we *do* know.

Re:What's the use? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about a year ago | (#43408843)

only the most important scientific discovery in the history of man might be found. Remember this project will be part of a *system* that will find earth-sized exoplanets and then determine atmospheric composition (in conjunction with other projects). Do you realize what free atmospheric oxygen would mean on a world in habitable zone? LIFE. And then suppose optical SETI or some other means found a signal from such a place. what do we want to learn from this indeed.

a better way to spend the money (1)

ozduo (2043408) | about a year ago | (#43385809)

would be to develop a propulsion system capable of reaching these planets.

Re:a better way to spend the money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43386331)

Which planets?

Re:a better way to spend the money (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about a year ago | (#43386393)

exactly, this new satellite will be able to analyze the atmosphere of exoplanets, even the earth sized ones. find one within ten light years with free oxygen, have a breakthrough in controlled fusion....

Terminology (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | about a year ago | (#43386195)

TFA says, 'This dip is known as a "transit"' but that's wrong. Transit [] in this context refers to the exoplanet passing in front of the star. The dip in the star's brightness is caused by this, and is used to infer the passage.

Coordination, please (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43386855)

In these days of very lean budgets, a bit of coordination between NASA and ESA would be appreciated.
ESA announced a similar mission a while ago :

We are also going to have TWO Mercury's orbiters : Messenger (NASA, in orbit now) and Bepi Colombo (ESA, to be launched).
I mean, Mercury is interesting enough only for one orbiter, especially if there's no mission to the much more interesting Titan and

For Mars, NASA withdrew from ESA's Exo Mars rover mission for budget reason, only to announce their very own second rover,
MSL-2 (a copy of Curiosity).
This is an act of pure bastardy that could be easily be construed as sabotage : imagine you have a "friend" that has offered to
deliver half of one of your most important projects. Your "friend" withdraws his offer for money reasons. Ok, that might be the case.
But then, he goes and announces his very own nearly identical project. What would you think of him ? So much for coordination.

ESA has since announced a Russian collaboration. However, considering that NASA was to deliver the landing system for a rover
of similar complexity to Curiosity and considering that Russia has been very unsuccessful lately at launching probes (let alone landing
them), I believe that the mission is basically doomed.

For every winner there is at least one loser (1)

ehovland (2915) | about a year ago | (#43392039)

TESS was competing w/ another exoplanet survey instrument: []

Roughly the same amount of money, same launch date, different people working on it.

Good luck to the TESS team, too bad it wasn't FINESSE.

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