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NASA Ponders What To Do With a Pair of Free Space Telescopes

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the scientists-use-mirror-to-incinerate-kremlin dept.

NASA 97

scibri writes "A few months ago, the secretive National Reconnaissance Office gave NASA two Hubble-sized space telescopes that it didn't want anymore. Now the space agency has to figure out what to do with them, and whether it can afford it. The leading candidate to use one of the telescopes is the the proposed Wide-Field Infrared Space Telescope (WFIRST), which would search for the imprint of dark energy, find exoplanets and study star-forming regions of the Galaxy. The NRO telescope could speed up the mission, but may end up costing more in the long run." A few issues with re-purposing the NRO satellite: higher launch costs because it's bigger, it can't see as far or as much IR (but it can see fainter objects, and could be used in planet detection), and the need for a bigger camera.

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97 comments

send them.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41539221)

above and below the galactic disk...

Re:send them.. (4, Informative)

tysonedwards (969693) | about 2 years ago | (#41539257)

Do you have any idea how many millennia it would take to send these "above and below the galactic disk"?
Let alone the strength of a transmitter that would be necessary to facilitate data transmissions of the imagery collected from such a location?
Or the ability to operate when sufficiently removed from a star to facilitate energy collection?
Not to say that it wouldn't be a particularly cool idea, but wildly impractical with our current state of technology.

Re:send them.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41540533)

They're not worth the extra cost of removing the NRO's assassination laser.

Re:send them.. (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | about 2 years ago | (#41541605)

Duh, lease time on it to the CIA -I mean "Dale's Import/Export Yarn and Sewing Works LLC" of Langley, VA.

Wider Access (5, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | about 2 years ago | (#41539267)

Getting time on the big telescopes has always been a bit of a trial since they are a limited resource and there are a lot of people who want to use them.

These telescopes do not need some special unique mission/purpose.. just having more capacity and schedule time for a wider group of scientists would be worthwhile right there, at least to the people who get time on them.

Re:Wider Access (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41539617)

Use them to find intelligent life in Congress

Re:Wider Access (3, Funny)

guruevi (827432) | about 2 years ago | (#41540037)

That would be a colossal waste of money. Everybody knows there is no such thing as intelligent life in Congress.

Re:Wider Access (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 2 years ago | (#41540623)

Which is great, as long as the assessed costs to those researchers/institutions represent the cost to operate, plus a fair amortized launch cost.

And in order to lift those scopes to their viewing points, you've got to have a solid business plan that shows how these users will be committed enough to justify the investment.

When you're throwing around $billions, it's not a matter of "build it and hope they show up." (Well, at least I'd hope not.)

Re:Wider Access (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#41542077)

And in order to lift those scopes to their viewing points, you've got to have a solid business plan that shows how these users will be committed enough to justify the investment.

Business plan?

What part of Astronomy is based on business plans?
Even if someone is willing to pay to use a telescope somewhere, it's always with grant money. There is no market at work here, its pure science, with little hope of any gain other than knowledge for knowledge's sake.

Re:Wider Access (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 2 years ago | (#41551873)

You *still* have to have a financial plan.
You cannot - I hope to god you cannot - fling a $1.6 billion mission into space without doing some sort of analysis as regards costs.

If putting that telescope in the sky would be "really awesome" but ultimately you've only got 'customers' for $600 million of the costs, then understand that it's a $1 billion cost, and may or may not be worth that.

Re:Wider Access (1)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#41542021)

Getting time on the big telescopes has always been a bit of a trial since they are a limited resource and there are a lot of people who want to use them.
  These telescopes do not need some special unique mission/purpose.. just having more capacity and schedule time for a wider group of scientists would be worthwhile right there, at least to the people who get time on them.

Wait. weren't these designed for terrestrial observation?

How can we be sure these things are even suitable for deep space imaging? Do they have the proper stabilization and aiming capabilities?

Will the NRO allow them to be used for their original purpose (earth observation), or would that reveal too much about current capabilities?
If they would allow earth observation, wouldn't NOAA or Dept of Interior or Agriculture be a better candidate agencies? What about Google Earth?

Can they be maintained in space for years and years without service?
Can they be remotely serviced and refueled?
Could you send them to Mars?

Sometimes free stuff is free because its basically useless, or obsolete, or unsuited for any other purpose.

Re:Wider Access (3, Insightful)

RoboRay (735839) | about 2 years ago | (#41542117)

Wait. weren't these designed for terrestrial observation?

This is answered in the article.

How can we be sure these things are even suitable for deep space imaging?

This is answered in the article.

Do they have the proper stabilization and aiming capabilities?

This is answered in the article.

Will the NRO allow them to be used for their original purpose (earth observation), or would that reveal too much about current capabilities?

This is answered in the article.

If they would allow earth observation, wouldn't NOAA or Dept of Interior or Agriculture be a better candidate agencies? What about Google Earth?

This is answered in the article.

Can they be maintained in space for years and years without service?

This is answered in the article.

Can they be remotely serviced and refueled?

This is answered in the article.

Could you send them to Mars?

OK, now, this is just getting silly.

Re:Wider Access (1)

jythie (914043) | about 2 years ago | (#41544231)

But that would involve reading the article! Who has time to that when there are comments to post!

Hire two more astronomers. (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about 2 years ago | (#41539277)

I mean an Astronomer with a job is a rare thing.

Re:Hire two more astronomers. (1)

mmelson (441923) | about 2 years ago | (#41541517)

According to the WSJ [wsj.com] , Astronomy and Astrophysics had a 0% unemployment rate as of the 2010 census.

Re:Hire two more astronomers. (1)

socrplayr813 (1372733) | about 2 years ago | (#41542299)

Your link isn't working for me, but unemployment numbers only count people who are actively looking. If they gave up and got jobs at McDonalds or Walmart to keep from starving, they wouldn't be counted as unemployed.

Re:Hire two more astronomers. (1)

Ian Paul Freeley (1353601) | about 2 years ago | (#41542421)

That's for undergraduate Astronomy *majors*--they are getting jobs, but not as Astronomers. Of course, most Art History majors don't go on to be Art Historians either--but many of us would hope that a degree in astronomy would be more like a degree in engineering than a humanities degree.

Easy. (5, Funny)

ddd0004 (1984672) | about 2 years ago | (#41539295)

Make the first set of space binoculars

Re:Easy. (1)

JustOK (667959) | about 2 years ago | (#41539483)

Just like Khan, you neglect the z dimension. You need trinoculars.

Re:Easy. (1)

ISoldat53 (977164) | about 2 years ago | (#41540567)

Put them side by side and make some really cool 3D apace movies.

Re:Easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41540627)

Mod parent insightful - I was going to post the same thing! Though with a serious note - optical interferometry can produce results much greater than the individual apeture sizes would suggest: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astronomical_optical_interferometry [wikipedia.org]

Re:Easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41540673)

Correction: Second set of space binoculars -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STEREO

Re:Easy. (1)

Israfels (730298) | about 2 years ago | (#41540843)

Actually, the SDO already kinda does that.

Re:Easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41549819)

BinLadenculars, to be exact.

NRO's cast offs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41539319)

Gotta wonder what they are flying now. Keep in mind that these huge telescopes are not pointed at the cosmos.

OCCUPY ORBIT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41539387)

inb4:

Always money for bombing and keeping down the brown man,
increasing Mankind's' understanding of the universe gets the table scraps.

Re:OCCUPY ORBIT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41539717)

President Obama, is that you?

-ZR

Rush, is that you? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41539901)

President Obama, is that you?

your trollfu is weak.
a real racist would support Obabo, because, despite being a crypto-Muslim, he has shown no compunction about killing ragheads just to shore up his flagging approval ratings.

Re:NRO's cast offs (1)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41540665)

Gotta wonder what they are flying now. Keep in mind that these huge telescopes are not pointed at the cosmos.

Aside from the political stuff I have a serious scientific question, one end of a scope is the room temp end pointed at the (on average) room temp earth all the time, and the other end of a scope alternates between hot sunlight and frozen deep space every orbit. From a technical perspective, are there modifications to the thermal system required, and if so are they the "expense" they're complaining about? If it's cheaper technologically to continue to point "down" I would imagine there's some interesting earth science they could do.

Re:NRO's cast offs (1)

t4ng* (1092951) | about 2 years ago | (#41541129)

At the risk of getting people to read some of TFA, here are some quotes from the original article:

They’re “space qualified,” as NASA puts it

“They’re not state-of-the-art spy satellites, but they are probably still state-of-the-art optics.”

The spy telescopes have a feature that civilian space telescopes lack: a maneuverable secondary mirror that makes it possible to obtain more-focused images, said David Spergel, a Princeton University astrophysicist...The new telescopes are “actually better than the Hubble. They’re the same size, but the optical design is such that you can put a broader set of instruments on the back,”

From that I gather that since Hubble point at earth could resolve a dime laying on the ground, and that's not as good as current state-of-the-art spy satellites, that the US government seems to have a need to check our hair for lice from orbit.

Re:NRO's cast offs (1)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | about 2 years ago | (#41541589)

If they are "state of the art optics" then the resolution hasn't gone up. Instead what has gone up is the ability to a) get lots of signals in at the same time from different frequencies and b) filter them out to identify the interesting ones.

Re:NRO's cast offs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41543489)

Just from diffraction limits, Hubble wouldn't be able to resolve things below 10 cm, assuming you only cared about blue/UV and the rest of the system (and air below it) was perfect. If you wanted to resolve a dime, you would need a mirror more like 15 meters across, more like 20 if you wanted to look at a colors other than blue, and a heck of a lot more to see more than a blurry dot.

Increase the magnification (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41539339)

by stacking the telescopes one in front of the other.

Re:Increase the magnification (2)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#41540721)

Interferometer side by side, seriously. Takes a bit of additional support hardware of course.

Telescopes/Microscopes (5, Insightful)

Tator Tot (1324235) | about 2 years ago | (#41539363)

I always found it funny how NASA used the picture-taking satellites as telescopes, while the NRO and DoD uses them more like microscopes.

Neighbor (4, Funny)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 2 years ago | (#41539365)

I have a cute neighbor...

Re:Neighbor (4, Funny)

Baloroth (2370816) | about 2 years ago | (#41540693)

I have a cute neighbor...

I think NASA has a slightly different idea of what kind of "heavenly body" they want to study.

Re:Neighbor (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 2 years ago | (#41543945)

I think NASA has a slightly different idea of what kind of "heavenly body" they want to study.

What're you saying, they're into fat chicks?

Re:Neighbor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41547273)

I want to look at Hot Young Stars

No IR? not worth it (3, Insightful)

cellocgw (617879) | about 2 years ago | (#41539367)

Take a googletour of the newer ground-based visible-spectrum telescopes. Replete w/ new mirror technology and advance adaptive optic systems, these outperform any telescope that can be put into space -- but just in the visible.
The only good reason to launch a telescope is to do IR and UV work, i.e. wavelengths that are significantly absorbed by the atmosphere.

Re:No IR? not worth it (3, Interesting)

Strider- (39683) | about 2 years ago | (#41539941)

Space based telescopes also have one other important advantage over their earth-bound siblings, namely the ability to image a target for extremely long periods of time. Except for the polar regions, telescopes on earth realistically only have 4 to 6 hours of useable imaging time per night. The rest of the time is spent waiting for it to get dark. A telescope in orbit, on the other hand, can stay pointed on a target for days, weeks or months at a time.

Canada's "Humble" space telescope (MOST), for example, stared at a patch of the sky for 5 years straight. Its mission is to continually watch a group of stars, watching for subtle variations in their brightness which could a) indicate the transit of extra-solar planets and b) help determine the composition of these stars.

Re:No IR? not worth it (1)

AikonMGB (1013995) | about 2 years ago | (#41540147)

Kieran, is that you?

Re:No IR? not worth it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41545099)

The only good reason to launch a telescope is to do IR and UV work

In the high-frequency direction, it's also worth launching a telescope for X-ray or gamma-ray astronomy. In the low-frequency direction, once you get past the IR, the atmosphere becomes transparent again (to radio waves). That is, until you get to really low frequencies (~20 MHz), for which the ionosphere is opaque. The only way to do radio astronomy at those frequencies is with a satellite, and no one's tried it yet (though there's at least one research group working on it).

An exception: even with radio waves for which the atmosphere is transparent, it's still worth launching a satellite so that you can do interferometry between it and a ground-based telescope: you get wider separation, and hence higher resolution, than you can get between two telescopes on opposite sides of the earth.

eBay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41539389)

eBay them of course

Re:eBay (3, Funny)

ddd0004 (1984672) | about 2 years ago | (#41539577)

Let me guess, local pickup only.

How to pay for it? (0)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 2 years ago | (#41539393)

Easy. Just borrow more from China, or just do another round of "Quantitative Easing" (just print the money), or just raise taxes... taxpayers have infinite money, when you consider the sum total of all future contributions from all taxpayers until the end of time.

At least, this is how government thinks.

Re:How to pay for it? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41539421)

No, government thinks as follows: "I need to perform legislative and administrative acts to favour the people who regularly donate to my campaign or promise me a cushy consultancy after I leave government."

Anything else is incidental.

Re:How to pay for it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41539531)

I guess we could do what you want and just throw them away along with all other government funded science. Surely that will lead to prosperity!

near asteroid discovery (2)

DECula (6113) | about 2 years ago | (#41539411)

    Can't have enough stuff looking for possible collision sources, can we?
    Or am I just another paranoid, SysFy Channel watching meat bag?

Yard Sale (3, Funny)

senorpoco (1396603) | about 2 years ago | (#41539447)

How come I never seem to find anything cool when I go to a yard sale.

Re:Yard Sale (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#41539659)

How come I never seem to find anything cool when I go to a yard sale.

Gotta get out there early, beat the blue-hairs to the punch.

Re:Yard Sale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41541327)

Blue hair: "What is this thing?"

Government Spook, sitting behind fold-out card table near cigarbox of money: "It's a high-power asynchronous orbiting satellite telescope."

Blue hair: "Oh...ummm...I'll give you twenty-five cents for it."

Spook: "Maam, this cost over 250 million dollars of taxpayer money"

Blue hair: "....fifty cents."

Spook: "*groan* FINE."

Blue hair proceeds to pay in individually counted pennies.

Sell them to the highest bidder (2)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 2 years ago | (#41539477)

and use the money to build something you really want. Has nobody here gotten useless (to you) tech from a relative for your birthday? Stick those puppies on ebay and go get some real space science stuff.

Re:Sell them to the highest bidder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41539913)

Sell the birds to google (or Apple?) and use it to fund the real stuff?
Google will get higher res pictures of Earth and everybody will be happy.

Re:Sell them to the highest bidder (1)

LtGordon (1421725) | about 2 years ago | (#41539999)

Sell them to whom exactly? You can be sure that sats designed for reconaissance aren't going to be authorized for sale outside of the United States or for anything but astronomy. DigitalGlobe/GeoEye are unlikely to be interested unless they got a hell of a deal.

Make a Beowulf cluster of them. (0)

Robert Frazier (17363) | about 2 years ago | (#41539507)

Or is that the wrong technology?

Best wishes,
Bob

Open Space Exploration! (1)

kiriath (2670145) | about 2 years ago | (#41539523)

I say allow the Open community to use them to create an Open Space Exploration Foundation....

Re:Open Space Exploration! (1)

LtGordon (1421725) | about 2 years ago | (#41540023)

Given enough eyeballs, are incoming asteroids are shallow.

Obligatory XKCD (4, Interesting)

scorp1us (235526) | about 2 years ago | (#41539545)

Depth Perception [xkcd.com]

Binocular galactic vision!

Re:Obligatory XKCD (1)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about 2 years ago | (#41542535)

Depth Perception [xkcd.com]

Binocular galactic vision!

The European Space Agency is already doing this [esa.int] . HTH.

Re:Obligatory XKCD (1)

scorp1us (235526) | about 2 years ago | (#41542647)

Link is bad.

Re:Obligatory XKCD (1)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about 2 years ago | (#41545107)

Here's the correct link. [esa.int] Cool space mission.

Higher launch costs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41539723)

A few issues with re-purposing the NRO satellite: higher launch costs because it's bigger...

Wait a sec. The free satellites are sitting on Earth? I thought they were already in orbit. If they are on the ground, NASA might as well remove the classified bits and send them to a museum.

Re:Higher launch costs? (1)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | about 2 years ago | (#41541531)

Actually for most satellites the launch cost tends to be far lower than the value of the object. Custom made; extremely carefully; out of very exotic materials (just study up on the solar panels they use for example). These probably really do deliver real value if someone can work out how to use them effectively. Plus, the instruments you use for spying into people's homes are probably a bit different from (and much more expensive than) the ones you use for seeing far off black holes. If they were already up and installed then a) the scientists wouldn't be allowed the satellites and b) they probably wouldn't do the right job anyway.

World Wind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41539793)

Make high resolution pictures of the planet that's closest to the telescopes (look behind you) and put them in World Wind and the public domain.

Matched pair of shooting stars? (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about 2 years ago | (#41539917)

Matched pair of shooting stars?

>> They're both still on the ground, dumbass.

Nevermind. Sell them to China or Russian and then use the money for general funding.

Dear NASA (4, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | about 2 years ago | (#41540021)

Dear NASA, Regarding the two satellites that the NRO wants to give you. Please take them and sell them to Google. Then use that money to get a working space program together.

Interesting choice of priorities (5, Insightful)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about 2 years ago | (#41540163)

While NASA literally struggled to raise funds to build one Hubble, the NRO had the funds to build many more than three "Hubbles."

(The NRO showed two completed and parts for a third, imagine how many others actually went into space)

^^! this (1)

hierophanta (1345511) | about 2 years ago | (#41540737)

that was the most insightful thing i've read on /. in some time. but i have to mod points (thus is life)

Re:Interesting choice of priorities (4, Informative)

Mt._Honkey (514673) | about 2 years ago | (#41540989)

At least 17, from a quick Wikipedia search: KH-11 [wikipedia.org] , and Misty [wikipedia.org]

Re:Interesting choice of priorities (1)

steelfood (895457) | about 2 years ago | (#41543923)

You call those spy satellite photos? Google Maps has better resolution and in color to boot.

Re:Interesting choice of priorities (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41544499)

AFAIK there are no public photos that are acknowledged as being from Misty and I suspect any KH-11 photos you're looking at are from earlier, crappier cameras (they launched KH-11s from 1976 to 1990)...

Re:Interesting choice of priorities (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 2 years ago | (#41554369)

Check when the Kiev was built. It was laid down in 1970 and entered service in 1975.

Re:Interesting choice of priorities (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 2 years ago | (#41563439)

Keep in mind that:

1. The satellite photos may have been degraded intentionally so as to not reveal the capabilities of the satellite.
2. Google Maps uses aerial photos, while the satellites have to be pretty high up to not have their orbits degrade. Reading an eye chart from 20 feet and 200 feet are very different problems.

I wouldn't be surprised if a cheap predator drone with its tiny cameras takes better photos than a satellite. The difference is that nobody is going to shoot down the satellite due to how customs around airspace have evolved.

Re:Interesting choice of priorities (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 2 years ago | (#41563393)

Well, according to wikipedia the cost of a KH11 is about half the hubble. They have economies of scale as well. I never understood with things like the Hubble why they don't make more than one. At almost any step of manufacture the cost to just stick one more whatever on the rig and do what you just did 5 minutes ago is pretty cheap compared to doing the first one.

It is like saying that StupidCo spent $50M building a single smartphone, but every teenager is running around with an iPhone it seems. Well, if Apple only made one of them it would cost $50M too. Once you build up the supply chain/etc cranking out a few is not that hard.

The mirror would clearly be the limiting factor for a telescope, but obviously the capacity exists to churn out a dozen Hubble mirrors. Those satellites aren't launched that often, so I'm sure NASA could have gotten on the polisher in-between them.

Two spare larger than Hubble sized telescopes?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41540205)

WTF. Science has one Hubble and spying has *two extra* that they didn't want. This is seriously messed up.

It's obvious what needs to be done. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41540241)

Turn them back towards earth and get some super awesome pictures of topless French beachers. Duh.

Re:It's obvious what needs to be done. (2)

Shadowmist (57488) | about 2 years ago | (#41540473)

Turn them back towards earth and get some super awesome pictures of topless French beachers. Duh.

They're not in space, they are air force satelites that were never launched.

Areceibo was originally an Air Force experiment that got turned over to NASA. They had to do a major workover on it though to get it useful for radio astronomy.

Re:It's obvious what needs to be done. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41542869)

Areceibo was originally an Air Force experiment that got turned over to NASA. They had to do a major workover on it though to get it useful for radio astronomy.

No, it wasn't; no it didn't.

The Arecibo telescope was built between the summer of 1960 and November 1963, by William E. Gordon of Cornell University, who intended to use it to study Earth's ionosphere. Originally, a fixed parabolic reflector was envisioned, pointing in a fixed direction with a 150m (500ft) tower to hold equipment at the focus. This design would have limited its use in other areas of research, such as planetary science and radio astronomy, which require the ability to point at different positions in the sky and to track those positions for an extended period as Earth rotates. Ward Low of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) pointed out this flaw, and put Gordon in touch with the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory (AFCRL) in Boston, Massachusetts, where one group headed by Phil Blacksmith was working on spherical reflectors and another group was studying the propagation of radio waves in and through the upper atmosphere. Cornell University proposed the project to ARPA in the summer of 1958 and a contract was signed between the AFCRL and the University in November 1959.

  source [wikipedia.org]

Re:It's obvious what needs to be done. (1)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 2 years ago | (#41544011)

Turn them back towards earth and get some super awesome pictures of topless French beachers. Duh.

Just the ones with their arms by their sides, thank you very much.

The Elephant in the room (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41540747)

Telescopes designed to take images of things really far away are very different from telescopes designed to make things on the ground look bigger.

Either the NRO has satellites designed to look in deep space, or NASA is getting two satellites designed to look closely at things on the ground.

Why would the NRO need to look in deep space, and why would NASA need to look closely at the ground?

There are two of them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41540863)

The answer is obvious: 3D!

Funding Differences (1)

InterGuru (50986) | about 2 years ago | (#41540881)

Just shows the difference between the level and scrutiny of funding between the military/intelligence sector and the civilian sector. NASA has to go through a long period of request and debate to get a space telescope, while the military just builds a few too many with no comment from anyone.

Re:Funding Differences (1)

Beorytis (1014777) | about 2 years ago | (#41541311)

I guess they're like HumVees or other military gear. They're not that expensive until you try to use them.

Note to self: Value of space telescopes greatly diminished when they are not actually in space.

Re:Funding Differences (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 2 years ago | (#41554385)

Every time a satellite is built they usually build a spare in case the launch goes wrong. Once they decide they have enough satellites these spares can either be discarded or repurposed. That is probably what happened here.

What to do (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41541051)

Form a space based VLT telescope that is compatible with Hubble.

How about (1)

ArrayIndexOutOfBound (694797) | about 2 years ago | (#41541217)

How about Nasa and Google ( or another interested business/third party) come together and make a complete, consistent, as-detailed-as-hubble map of the sky? Like Google Sky, but with consistent snaps of the quality that would surpass any ground based telescope? After the first run, do a second and third scan, with perhaps a year or two between runs. With a bit of analysis - software or otherwise - it should be possible to develop a detailed _dynamic_ picture at various scales. This would essentially present a huge opportunity for both, professional and amateur astronomers. Almost like everybody having their own hubble?

several of these out there (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 2 years ago | (#41541387)

The Sloan Sky Survey has been doing this for a decade, on its 7th(?) round of mapping the whole sky. The Dark Energy Survey just recorded its test images (first light). At the end of the decade the Synoptic survey will map the sky every week recording petabytes a year. Much of this data will be available to public who may have time to look at things the professionals miss. (I probably overlooked a few projects too).

And if NASA doesn't want them (1)

bobstreo (1320787) | about 2 years ago | (#41541369)

Maybe Planetary Resources could buy them to map asteroids for mining.

explosion of "super telescopes" (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 2 years ago | (#41541439)

I am surprised how many have been funded in the past decade. Many of these approach a billion dollars each. Not only do you include construction costs, but operational costs of at least 10% of its construction cost a year. In the current economic climate, not only are good ideas not being built, but some of the older scopes are being de-funded.

NASA needs to set up a kickstarter project (1)

Tommy Bologna (2431404) | about 2 years ago | (#41541527)

Politicians are undependable. Why not tap their space exploration / science supporters directly?

MAP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41541613)

NASA could retrofit those satellites and do a more extensive map of the earth or resale the map information

Useless tie-in to manned program (1)

Animats (122034) | about 2 years ago | (#41542099)

From the article: "One way to reduce the cost of the NRO-WFIRST mission for NASA's astrophysics division would be to launch it on one of the new fleet of rockets that NASA will be eager to test at the end of the decade as it moves beyond the now-grounded space shuttles. But that would involve NASA's human space programme, an option that the science-definition team has been asked to consider. It could mean moving the mission from its intended orbit around the Sun -- at a dynamically stable spot known as a Lagrangian point some 1.5 million kilometers beyond Earth's orbit -- to a geostationary orbit about 36,000 kilometers above Earth (still much further out than Hubble). The geostationary option would be within reach of a wider variety of rockets -- and of potential servicing missions by astronauts."

Bad news. NASA's "new fleet of rockets" may never happen. They're not funded, and every new NASA booster program since the Shuttle has failed. Just launch the thing on a Space-X Falcon Heavy.

military budget, givin' away telescopes and stuff (1)

P-niiice (1703362) | about 2 years ago | (#41542511)

My first reaction to this article was 'wow NASA is getting two space telescopes', but immediately after that was realization of how ridiculous our military budget is.

Question is, how do we reduce it to a sane level without seriously harming the economy due to an influx of unskilled soldiers?

Re:military budget, givin' away telescopes and stu (1)

mspohr (589790) | about 2 years ago | (#41543049)

I don't think it's the soldiers who are the big expense in the military budget.
I think it's the "military-industrial complex" which sells lots of obscenely overpriced kit to the military.
If it were possible to cut back the military budget (unlikely), you would see a few unemployed engineers (who could probably easily find civilian jobs). You'd also see a drop in profits for all of the military contractors.

So... (1)

lightknight (213164) | about 2 years ago | (#41542993)

So, someone setup a crowd-tilt campaign or something to get together the money to get these things launched.

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