Planet earth from the space at night . Some elements of this image furnished by NASA

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NASA Launches Mission to Look for Life-Supporting Planets

April 16, 2018 - 10:24 am

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - The familiar sound of a countdown will once again ring out over a NASA launching pad today as the Space Agency kicks off an ambitious program to see if planets outside our solar system could support life.

Washington University geo-physics professor William McKinnon calls it an intriguing mission, even if it seems like these planets are completely out of reach.

“A sane and sensible person will tell you we’ll never be able to reach these planets, but here are people who are trying to image how we might do that. You might have heard something in the news about something called the Breakthrough Project, people are really trying to imagine if you really wanted to travel light years away, and within a human lifetime, how could you accelerate a space craft tor that kind of speed?” he says.

McKinnon and students attending his planetary exploration seminar will be watching as NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, takes off, and then will follow the 2-year-long mission as it plays out.

NASA says TESS will work to find promising planets that powerful telescopes, like the Hubble and the future James Webb Spaces Telescope, can examine in more detail to see if they could potentially support life.