International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Nasa’s new planet hunting probe set to search for alien life


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Exoplanets, Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), Kepler spacecraft

Mains level: Space missions and their significance

Satellite for exoplanet discovery

  1. A National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) satellite, which will hunt for exoplanets that have the potential to harbor alien life, is on schedule to launch next week
  2. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will discover a number of planets whose atmospheric compositions hold potential clues to the presence of life

About the satellite

  1. The satellite aims to discover thousands of nearby exoplanets, including at least 50 Earth-sized ones
  2. The spacecraft will be looking for a phenomenon known as a transit, where a planet passes in front of its star, causing a periodic and regular dip in the star’s brightness
  3. Nasa’s Kepler spacecraft used the same method to spot more than 2,600 confirmed exoplanets



  1. An exoplanet or extrasolar planet is a planet outside our solar system that orbits a star
  2. The nearest exoplanet is Proxima Centauri b, located 4.2 light-years (1.3 parsecs) from Earth and orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun
  3. Almost all of the planets detected so far are within the Milky Way
  4. The discovery of exoplanets has intensified interest in the search for extraterrestrial life
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