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Randy Atkins: Powerful imaging technologies have allowed us to spot planets orbiting distant stars. But they can only be seen from Earth for about a few hours a year.
Seamus Tuohy: You wouldn’t want to take a billion-dollar asset, like one of our grand observatories, and dedicate that to staring at a particular star.
Randy Atkins: So Seamus Tuohy, of Draper Lab, is working with MIT students on a spacecraft the size of a large shoebox that’s engineered hold a steady stare, from Earth orbit, on stars likely to have planets. It can’t do a close examination, but can figure out when a planet will be visible from here.
Seamus Tuohy: And then the grand observatories can look at those planets at the opportune time to tell us more information about the planet.
Randy Atkins: Such as whether it may be hospitable to life. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.
It’s hoped the first of these tiny spacecraft will be launched in late 2012.