Other and even more precise devices, including NASA's Terrestrial Planet Finder
and the European Space Agency's Darwin observatory, are scheduled to launch within the next decade.
That requires a different space telescope - the Terrestrial Planet Finder
Waiting in the wings at NASA is a multibillion-dollar design for a huge orbiting instrument called the Terrestrial Planet Finder
, originally to have been launched this decade but now on ice due to heavy space science budget cuts.
We still cannot see if it has an atmosphere, and if so whether it contains the telltale gases that indicate the presence of life, but a new generation of orbiting observatories that are planned for the next decade -- NASA's Terrestrial Planet Finder
and the European Space Agency's Darwin project -- could give us the answers.
America's Terrestrial Planet Finder
and Europe's Darwin, which will consist of a network of several satellites, could be scanning the universe in a decade.
Other sections cover solar telescopes, wavefront sensing and control, mirror technology, NASA's Terrestrial Planet Finder
missions, and coronographs.
What we need now are more powerful telescopes, hence the European Space Agency's Darwin and Nasa's Terrestrial Planet Finder
projects which could be in orbit within 10 years - although the Nasa project has already been put on hold indefinitely because of budget cuts.
In addition, the European Space Agency's Darwin and NASA's Terrestrial Planet Finder
missions are scheduled to launch in the next 10-15 years--with the hope of finding a few dozen terrestrial planets and probing the composition of their atmospheres to search for signs of life.
LBT thus promises to be an important tool in NASA's Terrestrial Planet Finder
project, scheduled to launch in just over a decade.
But when Nasa's Terrestrial Planet Finder
and the European Space Agency's Darwin telescopes are launched they could open a whole new treasure trove of planets - possibly including some like our own.
A mission similar to Darwin - called the Terrestrial Planet Finder
- is being considered by the American space agency NASA.