The $337 million (roughly Rs. 2,200 crores) 2-year TESS mission is created to build on the work of the Kepler space telescope which discovered the bulk of the documented 3,700 exoplanets in the past 20 years.
"TESS is equipped with four very sensitive cameras that will be able to monitor almost the entire sky", said George Ricker, TESS principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The spacecraft will scan over 200,000 stars to find small worlds in our interstellar neighborhood, a few of which could be Earth- or Super-Earth-sized.
Such planets would be candidates for harboring life.
Barely 2 hours before the launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on Monday carrying NASA's new space telescope created to detect worlds beyond our solar system, the planned launch had to be delayed for at least 48 hours due to a technical glitch.
"It was created to look at 150,000 stars in a fairly wide field of view without blinking, for four years", she told reporters on the eve of the launch.
The washing machine-sized spacecraft is built to search the nearest, brightest stars for signs of periodic dimming.
Scientists expect Tess to discover thousands of rocky and icy planets and gas giants, maybe even water worlds and places defying imagination - possibly even a twin Earth. Where Kepler looked deep into a single patch of sky, finding planets as far as 3,000 light-years away, TESS will search far and wide, scanning about 85 percent of the entire sky for planets no farther than 300 light-years away.
30 people detained in Armenia during clashes between opposition supporters and police
Pashinian urged them to stay there through the night, saying that riot police will not attempt to disperse them in that case. Several hundred people sat or lay down on pavements, blocking roads leading to the parliament building and universities.
"TESS is the initial step", said Stephen Rinehart, TESS venture researcher at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center.
"This special orbit is key in potentially finding thousands of new planets outside our solar system".
Like Kepler, TESS will serve as a planetary population census giving astronomers a better idea as to the origin and evolution of planetary systems - including our own.
Just a couple of decades ago, the notion of finding habitable planets - or any planets at all - was a mere fantasy, said Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director at Nasa.
"We are ready to go", Volosin said Sunday during a pre-launch news conference at Kennedy Space Center. NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, once launched in 2020 or so, will probe these planets' atmospheres for potential traces of life.
With the help of a gravitational assist from the Moon, the spacecraft will settle into a 13.7-day orbit around Earth, NASA said in an earlier statement.
It might be a long time before cosmologists know regardless of whether life exists somewhere else.
NASA scientists are also hosting a Reddit AMA over on r/science.