NASA plans, which would put two space telescopes in action, were revealed by a senior official involved with the budget process. The two satellite-based telescopes were originally used by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), a highly secretive spy agency. According to reports, the two satellites boast a range almost 200 times wider than that of the Hubble Space Telescope, writes Kramer Phillips for The State Column.
NASA reusing telescopes from spy agency
This impressive range makes them some of the most powerful “eyes in the sky,” but it is still unclear exactly what they will be used for. According to Space.com, it could be focused on dark matter and dark energy. It is thought that NASA is planning a dark energy mission in 2024, and the agency is thinking about using the WFIRST-AFTA (the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope-Astrophysics Focused Telescope Assets) during the mission.
Scientists believe that dark energy is accelerating the expansion of the universe, but little is known about it. “We have a goal of using these telescopes as is, and we do not have to make modifications, but we do have to resurface the mirror, as it’s been sitting in storage,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s astrophysics chief.
Dark matter remains a mystery
Little is known about how dark energy and dark matter could be relevant to U.S. spy infrastructure, but other countries are increasingly making their presence felt in space. Both China and India have ambitious plans for further space exploration, and NASA is apparently now pushing the envelope.
President Obama will not be able to approve the budget for such a mission, because it would be up for consideration in 2017. NASA is working on a budget to present to the future president, which will come under a lot of scrutiny due to a series of cost overruns in recent years.
NASA also has to make a decision on the exact positioning of the two telescopes. An orbit closer to Earth would allow information to be transmitted more quickly, but a larger area of space would be observed from a more distant orbit. If the telescopes can help us improve our understanding of dark matter it will be a huge advance, and scientists believe that new ground could be broken in the field within a few decades.