A new mission designed to detect and analyze extrasolar planets could launch as early as 2016, experts at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in Pasadena, California, announce. They also released a brief video explaining how the new spacecraft would carry out its studies.
The spacecraft will be called the NASA Fast INfrared Exoplanet Spectroscopy Survey Explorer (FINESSE), and its main mission will be to analyze the atmosphere of around 200 exoplanets, providing data about their weather and chemical makeup.
This could help investigators determine what type of molecules these worlds may have, as well as the type of chemical reactions that could be occurring between these elements. These data will make it easier for scientists to determine whether an alien world can support life.
JPL expert Mark Swain is the principal investigator for FINESSE. The mission has not yet been accepted for development, but the American space agency is seriously considering it.