NASA has formally approved plans -- a year ahead of schedule -- for an infrared space telescope launching around 2024 to record unique wide-angle views of the cosmos, seeking answers to questions about mysterious dark energy and searching for habitable worlds around other stars, the space agency announced Thursday. The Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope is projected to cost approximately $2.3 billion and should operate for at least six years. WFIRST's centerpiece is a 7.9-foot (2.4-meter) telescope originally built to allow U.S. intelligence officials to spy on adversaries. Instead of turning the powerful telescope toward Earth for a clandestine surveillance mission, NASA plans to repurpose the hardware for cosmic research.
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