Wednesday, August 10, 2016

WFIRST's Evolution

Many NASA missions and projects have become household names – Apollo, Hubble, and, more recently, Curiosity. These names are chosen with care, and the names themselves can change over the course of a project, from inception to completion. Tracking the changing names of a project can reveal the story of a mission's development. NASA’s next big “flagship” astronomy mission, following the ambitious James Webb Space Telescope due to be launched in 2018, is currently known as the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). When NASA formally committed to flying WFIRST in February 2016, news stories stated that NASA had then "begun" work on WFIRST. This amused me because I, along with many of my colleagues, had already put hundreds of collective work-years into the development of WFIRST, under a slew of different names.

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