31st Annual Meeting of the DPS, October 1999
Session 29. Science and Technology of Future Space Missions III
Special Solicited and Contributed Oral Parallel Session, Tuesday, October 12, 1999, 2:00-3:30pm, Sala Kursaal

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[29.05] Terrestrial Planets Finder (Invited)

C. Beichman (JPL)

The Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) will study planets beyond our own solar system in a variety of ways: from their formation and evolution in the disks of newly forming stars to the properties of planets orbiting the nearest stars; from their number, sizes, and locations to their suitability as abodes for life. By combining the sensitivity of space-borne telescopes with the high spatial resolution of an interferometer, TPF will be able to reduce the glare of parent stars by a factor of more than one hundred thousand to reveal planetary systems as far away as 15 parsec (pc) or 50 light years. In addition to determining the size, temperature, and orbital location of planets as small as the Earth in the habitable zones of distant solar systems, TPF will use spectroscopy to measure the relative proportions of atmospheric gases like carbon dioxide, water, ozone, and methane to assess whether a planet someday could, or even presently does, support life.

TPF is presently being considered by NASA for a new start after 2007 after the successful completion of key technological milestones during the development of the Space Interferometer Mission (SIM) and the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST). The European Space Agency is presently studying the Infrared Space Interferometer (IRSI, formerly known as Darwin) for possible inclusion as a cornerstone mission in its Horizon 2000+ program. IRSI shares many of the scientific goals and technological challenges of TPF. Astronomers and engineers from both projects have established the groundwork for a fruitful collaboration on a project of broad public interest.

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