What's the Latest Development?
NASA has received what amounts to two free Hubble Space Telescopes from the National Reconnaissance Office, a government agency that forms part of the Department of Defense. Though the telescopes were intended to be used as spy satellites--their technical specifications show they point down at Earth, not out into space--NASA will retrofit the hardware to begin searching for dark energy, a mission that because of budget cuts had been delayed until at least 2024. The project, however, still depends on approval from Congress, the Office of Management and Budget and the Academy of Sciences.
What's the Big Idea?
Besides speeding up the time frame for a mission to study dark energy, the new telescopes' technical specifications are superior to the project NASA was planning, called WFirst. At 94-inches, the telescopes' diameters are twice the size of the WFirst designs, "giving it four times the light-gathering power, from which a whole host of savings cascade. Instead of requiring an expensive launch to a solar orbit, the telescope can operate in geosynchronous Earth orbit, complete its survey of the sky four times faster, and download data to the Earth faster." This gift to NASA makes one wonder what superior (spy) technology the NRO has developed.
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