NASA Unveils Plan for Next-Generation Telescope to Search Space for Signs of Life: Reports

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NASA has reportedly shed light on a new plan to build a successor to the James Webb Space Telescope,

Announced Monday at the last meeting of the American Astronomical Society, the Habitable Worlds Observatory aims to look for signs of life on habitable exoplanets.

Space.com said Friday that the observatory needs a powerful coronograph, an instrument that allows scientists to study faint objects.

Mark Clampin, the director of NASA’s astrophysics department, reportedly said the agency would approach the project as if it had a strict launch window, building on previous technology used for the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope and Webb.

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FILE – In this April 13, 2017 photo provided by NASA, technicians lift the mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope using a crane at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
(Laura Betz/NASA via TBEN, file)

The Habitable World Observatory would be sent to a point – known as L2, or the second Lagrange point – a million miles away from Earth and opposite the sun.

“We’re also going to plan this mission from day one to be usable,” Clampin said, noting that 10 to 15 years from now, companies could do “straightforward robot maintenance” there.

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“It gives us flexibility because it means we don’t necessarily have to hit all the science goals the first time,” he told attendees. Being able to maintain the observatory can extend the life of its mission.

The agency will reportedly turn to the commercial sector for the launch vehicle.

With this observatory, NASA is in particular following up on the last decade of research by the US National Academies, which called on NASA to revive the “Great Observatories” program.

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According to Science, the report said a six-meter telescope sensitive to ultraviolet, optical and near-infrared wavelengths could be the start of that effort.