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News Picks : Congress continues NASA funding boost to convert a spy satellite into a telescope

By: Physics Today
08 January 2016

Guardian: In 2011 the National Reconnaissance Office offered NASA an unused spy satellite currently in storage. The satellite's telescope, like the Hubble Space Telescope, has a 2.4-m-diameter mirror. However, it has a much wider field of view because it was originally designed to look at Earth, not into space. This wide field of view makes it perfect for wide-field surveys of galaxies, so NASA proposed the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFirst) program to make use of the satellite. Late last year, NASA requested $14 million for the program. Congress gave them $50 million, which allowed NASA to begin working on the project quickly. This year Congress continued the high funding with $90 million, well above the $16 million that had been requested. Outfitting the satellite is expected to take several more years, and the launch is scheduled for 2025. So that the telescope can be used in a variety of research fields, the satellite is also being equipped to find and take pictures of exoplanets.

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