Feeds

US military gives NASA two better-than-Hubble telescopes

Double Hubble budget bubble trouble

Boost IT visibility and business value

In a surprise reminder that NASA is not the only US space program – nor likely the best-funded one – the US Department of Defense's National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is giving the perennially underfunded space administration two better-than-Hubble-class space telescopes, prosaically named Telescope One and Telescope Two.

One would think that the space boffins would be overjoyed at receiving such delectable crumbs dropped from the military's overstocked table – after all, One and Two are not only equipped with the same 7.9-foot mirrors as is the Hubble, they're also fitted with secondary mirrors that improve focusing.

All well and good, to be sure – if NASA could afford to transform the no-longer-needed spy telescopes into scientific instruments, and then get the big ol' beasts into space. The agency isn't exactly flush with cash these days.

When asked by Stars and Stripes if his spacey staffers were popping champagne corks in celebration of the NRO's unexpected munificence, NASA's science head John Grunsfeld moped, "We never pop champagne here; our budgets are too tight."

It's not just that NASA's budget doesn't include a launch vehicle for one, let alone two, Hubble-sized space telescopes. Another budget-buster is that the NRO telescopes are just that: telescopes, and just telescopes – they don't include any instruments such as cameras or spectrographs.

In addition, NASA has no staff to plan and man any missions for which they might be used. "The hardware is a significant cost item and it's a significant schedule item," Princeton astrophysicist David Spergel told Stars and Stripes. "The thing that takes the longest to build is the telescope." That's the good news. The bad news, he added, is that "A big cost of any mission is always just people."

Still, if NASA can figure out a way to get one of these birds into space, it could accomplish a stunning amount of science. Each of the two telescopes, Spergel said, would have 100 times the field of view of the Hubble – and the Hubble, of course, is nearing the end of its distinguished career, with no more NASA missions scheduled to service it.

"Instead of losing a terrific telescope," Spergel said, "you now have two telescopes even better to replace it with."

That is, of course, if NASA can afford to retrofit them and get them up into space – an Herculean task, what with the James Webb space telescope and its cost overruns tearing hefty chunks out of the space administration's beleaguered budget.

Perhaps the cash-flush US military could dig into its coffers and pay child support for the two telescopes it just offered up for adoption. ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
LOHAN packs bags for SPACEPORT AMERICA!
Spanish launch goes titsup, we're off to the US of A
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
TRANSMUTATION claims US LENR company
Ten points of stuff out of a five pound bag
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
BAT-GOBBLING urban SPIDER QUEENS swell to ENORMOUS SIZE
But they'd lose a deathmatch against the coming Humvee-sized, armoured Arctic ones
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?