$1.6 Billion Telescope Would Search Alien Planets and Probe Dark Energy

August 20, 2010 at 10:14 am | Posted in Aerospace Law Interfaces | Leave a comment

by Sara M. Langston with the blog faculty

Source: Space.com

Astro2010 Decadal Survey by the National Academy of Sciences….The influential report sets a roadmap for scientific priorities and chooses the most promising telescope candidates for 2012-2021. Space- and ground-based research projects are split among large, midsize and small categories, so that WFIRST with its almost 5-foot (1.5-meter) field-of-view came in first within the large category of space projects exceeding $1 billion.

For comparison, NASA’s next huge space observatory – the infrared James Webb Space Telescope – has an estimated cost of about $5 billion and is slated to launch in 2014. The iconic Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched in 1990, has a total cost of more than $10 billion including its construction, launch and 20 years of operations. Major interplanetary missions, like NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn and Galileo mission to Jupiter, also carried billion-dollar costs.

A new ground-based observatory that could scan the entire available sky every three nights topped report’s list of vital, large ground projects that exceed $135 million. The $465-million telescope, called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, would scan each region of the sky 1,000 times over 10 years with an almost 28-foot (8.4-meter) aperture from its location in Chile. It is slated to see first light before the end of the decade.

Unlike past reports, this latest Decadal Survey considered the technological readiness and cost risk of each project. It also looked at previously considered projects such as LSST, which had matured since the most recent survey in 2001 and has now been dubbed the most “ready-to-go” among the ground projects…more

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