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JohnD
2012-Oct-07, 08:43 AM
As this gift was made in June this year, and reported then, I'm amazed that I can't find any mention of this here. If it has been discussed already, then mea culpa.

The National Reconnaissance Office has donated two space telescopes, both as big as Hubble, to NASA. They are the relics of an aborted programme to spy on Russia and the Middle East, the Future Imagery Architecture project, that cost $10 Billion before it was closed down. Alan Dressler of the Carnegie Institute has seen them and the warehouse in which they have been kept, and is quoted, "It was a huge project.... The facility was built on a grand scale and was capable of manufacturing dozens of space telescopes".
This may enable NASA to upgrade the W-First programme by giving it a mirror twice as big, and bringing its launch date forward by ten years. No doubt they will think of something to use the other one for.

When Hubble cost only $2.5 Billion, every cent of which had to be fought for, and even then the pressures on the project led to the well known focus problem, doesn't this news make US astronomers just a little angry? Feeling grateful, that they are given the leftovers from the intelligence feast, but that the US got its priorities so enormously backwards when so much funding went in this direction.

John

slang
2012-Oct-07, 10:47 AM
As this gift was made in June this year, and reported then, I'm amazed that I can't find any mention of this here.

There's a 4 page thread on the subject: I Heard A Rumor That The US Military Is Gifting NASA... (http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php/135140-I-Heard-A-Rumor-That-The-US-Military-Is-Gifting-NASA). Please read that one, and report this post if you'd like us to merge this post into that one.

And as this is about (allowed) space related politics but borders on (not allowed) other politics.. let's be careful. Thanks.

grapes
2012-Oct-07, 10:52 AM
As this gift was made in June this year, and reported then, I'm amazed that I can't find any mention of this here. If it has been discussed already, then mea culpa.

There was this thread:
http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php/134320-I-guess-I-ToSeeked-NASA-on-this-one-repurposing-spy-sats-as-space-telescopes


When Hubble cost only $2.5 Billion, every cent of which had to be fought for, and even then the pressures on the project led to the well known focus problem, doesn't this news make US astronomers just a little angry? Feeling grateful, that they are given the leftovers from the intelligence feast, but that the US got its priorities so enormously backwards when so much funding went in this direction.

Military budgets and the attendant politics can be discussed at other boards, not this one.

JohnD
2012-Oct-07, 12:32 PM
Thanks, guys!
I was so surprised to read this today, in my Sunday newspaper. I couldn't find it mentioned here; several searches for space telescopes, NRO(not permitted, to short), National Reconnaissance Office, NASA donation etc.etc. failed to find, but you guys have your ears closer to the ground.
I would have been shocked, professionally rather than politically, if I were an astronomer, to find so clearly where I was on the pecking order, but I suppose that's a political pecking order.

Oh, for a society/message board where politics could be discussed without rancour!
(In fact I know one, but I'm not telling.)

John

grapes
2012-Oct-07, 01:01 PM
Thanks, guys!
It is an interesting situation, to say the least. A pair of white mammoths.


Oh, for a society/message board where politics could be discussed without rancour!
(In fact I know one, but I'm not telling.)
To keep the rancourites at bay?

JohnD
2012-Oct-07, 03:41 PM
Are they white elephants, grapes?
In the reports I've read, NASA seem to welcome the gift, and say it will speed W-First, for instance.
But the details in the FOI briefing (in a link from Kullat Nunu) indicate these are little more than a mirror in a frame.
My first reading made me think these were already in orbit.

By the way, well done to BigDon and Banquo for being so alert - more than me, that's for sure.
John

slang
2012-Oct-07, 03:56 PM
They're just some components. Building working spacecraft with useful scientific applications will be very expensive. So yes, they are valuable gifts, but no, they won't provide for cheap new space telescopes.

Jens
2012-Oct-10, 07:47 AM
But the details in the FOI briefing (in a link from Kullat Nunu) indicate these are little more than a mirror in a frame.
My first reading made me think these were already in orbit.


Yeah, it makes a difference, doesn't it. It's a bit of an exaggeration, but it's like inviting a friend to stay in your new house that looks great as architectural drawings. :)

swampyankee
2012-Oct-10, 08:29 PM
Depending on the wavelength range of the mirrors -- it would be largely pointless for visible-light telescopes -- it may be more sensible (and almost certainly cheaper) to use them in two SOFIA-like flying telescopes. NASA owns two low-time (can't be more than about 10,000 flight hours) of 747s, which could, almost certainly, be converted in the same was as was the 747SP used to make SOFIA.

selden
2012-Oct-10, 08:45 PM
swampyankee,

Are you writing about the ex-shuttle transport planes? My understanding was that they're planned to be used as spare parts for SOFIA. My little knowledge of such things suggests that even just maintaining them as flight worthy would be quite expensive, in addition to the cost of the structural changes needed to mount a telescope in them.

djellison
2012-Oct-11, 12:25 AM
Initial reports suggest that to take the WFIRST telescope and switch to using one of these scopes would make the project cost $250m MORE than it would without these scopes existing.

As I said in the other thread - they're not a gift. They're a liability.



Also - Swampyankee - The two SCA 747's are being scrapped for use as spares to keep SOFIA flying.

swampyankee
2012-Oct-11, 01:02 AM
Also - Swampyankee - The two SCA 747's are being scrapped for use as spares to keep SOFIA flying.

I had heard that elsewhere, but if the mirrors are sufficiently capable in the same wavelength bands as SOFIA's telescope, two SOFIA-type conversions could probably be built, using new airframes, for less than 2.5 billion USD.

JohnD
2013-Feb-07, 09:33 AM
This week's New Scientist (9/2/13) reports that NASA held a workshop (SALSO) this week on uses for the two space telescope components given them by the NRO.
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21729033.800-nasa-spy-telescopes-wont-be-looking-at-earth.html
See the agenda at: http://science.nasa.gov/media/medialibrary/2013/01/28/SALSO_Agenda_-_revised.pdf
NS picked out projects discussed such as sending one to Mars, to image the surface , or to look at the cosmos (from a wider baseline, for greater resolution?), to search for exoplanets, to image the cosmos in ultraviolet (why?) or to serach for Earth-threatening asteroids.

I'm sure that members here could suggest mnay more!
John

Ken G
2013-Feb-07, 02:16 PM
Yeah, they don't really need more ideas for what to do with them, they need more money in order to even be able to keep them at all.

JohnD
2013-Feb-07, 11:19 PM
You mean all the members here would rather speculate on new types of super nova, the Multiverse, if a comet that can't yet be seen naked eye will be a Great Comet, the large scale structure of the Universe and if an "alternative power source" may have given the Moon a magnetic field for longer than ppreviously thought. The "Duracell" Theory?

Ho-hum, each to their own.
John

publiusr
2013-Feb-09, 08:50 PM
I don't agree that they are a liability myself--it is just that NASA needs funding increases. It would help keeping the hostile in-fighting down as folks won't have to snipe at each other's programs.

Solfe
2013-Feb-10, 01:45 AM
Personally, I would just make every operation of government a function of NASA.

Education = Strategic Infrastructure
Defence = Mission Support Directorate
Social Services = Human Capital Management
Health and Safety = Human Exploration and Operations
IRS = NASA Shared Services Center
Transportation = No specific department, simply a minor part of the Mars Rover programs.
Police, courts and prisons = Protective Services
Agriculture = Internal Controls and Management

It would much easier to fund these sort of surprise missions by having NASA first on the food chain.

Of course, I am slight nuts, so maybe someone could offer up their 5 year old to check over my plans. :)

publiusr
2013-Feb-12, 12:12 AM
I think, real;istically speaking, it would be better for a pro-Space president to have each branch of the service topped by pro-space military men, then suggest to Congress that those appointments be made for life.
The only way to deal with fighter-jock/drone-driver culture

Cougar
2013-Feb-12, 02:06 AM
...two space telescopes, both as big as Hubble...

Hasn't Hubble been there, done that? More time on the instrument is always nice, but the James Webb Space Telescope has been in planning since 1996. The Hubble is 2.4 m. JWST is 6.5 m., optimized for infrared to see the farthest ever. They should have given them to a couple universities that submitted the best proposals - for ground stations.