Last year, in the grand tradition of families around the globe, NASA was given two spy satellite hand-me-downs from the National Reconnaissance Office. Never launched into orbit, these satellites' Hubble-rivaling optics had been peering into nothing but the dark recesses of their upstate New York storage facility. In the year since NRO offered them up, the astrophysics community has considered the telescopes' potential uses, a query led by NASA space science chief (and MSI podcast guest) John Grunsfeld.
This week, a proposal was put forth publicly to use them for the $1.5 billion Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (Wfirst) project to explore the nature of dark energy. By repurposing one or both satellites instead of building a new one, NASA could save an estimated 250 million dollars-and a fair amount of time-on the Wfirst project.
Despite the massive windfall this provides to NASA, it does bring up a question of priorities. Should we be investing such incredible technology in global surveillance or scientific advancements? Sound off in the comments below!
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