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NASA Space Science

What Will NASA Do With Its Gifted Spy 'Scopes? 129

astroengine writes "NASA has begun surveying scientists on what they would like to do with two Hubble-class space telescopes donated to the civilian space agency by its secretive sibling, the National Reconnaissance Office — which operates the nation's spy satellites. But the gifts have some formidable strings attached, including costs to develop instruments and launch the observatories. The telescopes, though declassified, also are subject to export regulations. 'We need to retain possession and control,' NASA's astrophysics division director Paul Hertz told Discovery News. 'That doesn't preclude us from partnering (with other countries). It just sets boundaries on the nature of the partnership.' NASA also isn't allowed to use the telescopes for any Earth-observing missions. Topping the list of possible missions for the donor hardware is a remake of NASA's planned Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope, known as WFIRST. The mission, estimated to cost between $1.5 billion and $2 billion, is intended to answer questions about dark energy, a relatively recently discovered phenomenon that is believed to be speeding up the universe's rate of expansion."
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What Will NASA Do With Its Gifted Spy 'Scopes?

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  • Thoughts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @02:31PM (#42107435)

    The scientific community fights for years over one Hubble telescope - and some shady agency has two?

    They can afford to "give them away" now. Probably because they have something much better now?

    Am I the only one who thinks there is something simply "wrong" with all this? (And yes, I find it good those things are *now*, better: *finally*, used for science)

  • Re:Thoughts (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @02:36PM (#42107483)
    I don't know where I found out, but I knew soon after Hubble that the more were made for spy missions. It has been known for quite a while, just doesn't seem to be general knowledge.
  • Re:Thoughts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by X0563511 ( 793323 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @02:37PM (#42107495) Homepage Journal

    These were designed to look down. Of course they have something better now. If you don't think they can't read the headlines on your newspapers from space you're mistaken.

    I don't see anything wrong with this. When you have other superpowers threatening to glass your country, seeing where they are putting those munitions and such is mandatory.

    The world is not a utopia. We need espionage, if only to try to see it coming.

  • Priorities (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Comboman ( 895500 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @02:47PM (#42107599)

    No one is claiming that espionage is not necessary. It's just disturbing that NASA is a constant target of budget cuts and has been struggling to keep it's single space telescope operational for the last 20 years while the military has be sitting on two, unused, surplus space telescopes (that we know about).

  • by lordofthechia ( 598872 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @03:18PM (#42107971)

    If these can be calibrated to work as regular telescopes, then we need *Stereo* images of all the galaxies and nebulae!

      It's about time NASA got on the 3D bandwagon!

  • Re:Priorities (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lennier ( 44736 ) on Tuesday November 27, 2012 @05:19PM (#42109405) Homepage

    I'm delighted to hear that while NASA is underfunded to the point where they've needed to cancel maintenance of the Hubble and the James Webb telescope is on the verge of being scrapped, our spy organization is so overflowing with money that they can make two Hubble equivalents which are, apparently, redundant next to all of their other money and toys.

    Well, yes. Who did you think paid all the R&D bills for space in the first place?

    The Mercury capsules were launched on ICBMs, remember. And with shenanigans like GRAB [] going on since 1960, one could be forgiven for wondering if there have ever been any actual "pure science" missions in the US space fleet at all.

    The dual-use of "civilian" spaceflight and the primacy of military uses for space has never been a secret, most of this information is open-source and available in plenty of dry academic websites [] if you really want to know. But much of the US citizenry seem to enjoy believing in a gentle apolitical space fairy which exists only to take harmless pictures of nebulae and launch GPS and Internet relay satellites. It seems easier than confronting the funding reality.

    Same as the National Ignition Facility [] exists for "fusion power research" in the brochures. There is a lot of power generated in a boosted fission weapon, so technically it's not a lie.

"The pathology is to want control, not that you ever get it, because of course you never do." -- Gregory Bateson