Feeds

US military gives NASA two better-than-Hubble telescopes

Double Hubble budget bubble trouble

Security for virtualized datacentres

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. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins who stare at goats: I do believe they’re SHRINKING
Alpine chamois being squashed by global warming
What's that STINK? Rosetta probe shoves nose under comet's tail
Rotten eggs, horse dung and almonds – yuck
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Kip Thorne explains how he created the black hole for Interstellar
Movie special effects project spawns academic papers on gravitational lensing
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
Moment of truth for LOHAN's servos: Our US allies are poised for final test flight
Will Vulture 2 freeze at altitude? Edge Research Lab to find out
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.