“I always get the shakes before a drop,” wrote Robert Heinlein, the words being those of protagonist Johnny Rico in his novel Starship Troopers. I thought of them again this morning because while I don’t tend to get the ‘shakes,’ I do tend to get nervous before a major launch, and that’s what we have today. The image below comes from the TESS mission Twitter account @NASA_TESS (https://twitter.com/NASA_TESS) in a shot just posted as I write. Launch is scheduled for 1832 Eastern time (2332 UTC) and can be seen here.
The launch vehicle is a SpaceX Falcon 9, lifting off from Cape Canaveral. Here’s a bit of NASA’s latest statement:
TESS is NASA’s next step in the search for planets outside of our solar system, known as exoplanets, including those that could support life. The mission is expected to catalog thousands of planet candidates and vastly increase the current number of known exoplanets. TESS will find the most promising exoplanets orbiting relatively nearby stars, giving future researchers a rich set of new targets for more comprehensive follow-up studies, including the potential to assess their capacity to harbor life.
All true, of course, but we should dwell on the fact that ...