Even though it had a rocky start by launching with faulty optics, the Hubble Space Telescope has churned out some truly breath-taking pictures over the years. Now NASA has received two more Hubble-Sized space telescopes from the National Reconnaissance Office, which were originally intended to view the Earth as spy satellites. The only problem is, NASA doesn’t have the money to fix them up and put them in orbit.
According to The Washington Post, the scopes surpass Hubble with a 100 times the field of view and a newer lighter design, but they still lack cameras or any scientific instrumentation. Once the NRO decided to give the unused telescopes away in favor of newer, better technology, they striped whatever top-secret spy equipment they had installed off of them. So even though the pair of unused spy scopes are superior to Hubble in many ways, it will still cost a ton of money to get them ready and launch them into space.
Unless the White House decides to start funneling money to NASA (Which isn’t very likely), it looks like the pair of scopes are going to have to wait awhile to get into space. At NASA’s current funding levels, it would only be able to launch one of the satellites in 2024 at the soonest, while the other sits unused on Earth. The existence of the scopes does offer hope that we will have a Hubble replacement available when the storied instrument eventually goes offline.
Hitting the space scope jackpot does present some intriguing opportunities. If we had the money to fix up and launch both we could get an unprecedented field of view of our universe. There is also the possibility that we could use at least one of the scopes as intended, but instead of having it orbiting Earth looking for terrorists, we could have it orbiting Mars and looking for points of interest there. With the ability to see a dime sitting on top of the Washington Monument from space, we could do a lot of mission planning for future Mars missions, both human and robot.
Here’s hoping that someone in the United States government can see the benefit of using the intelligence community’s hand-me-downs.