TECH

NASA Wants To Put A Telescope On A Giant Airship

27/11/2014 10:10 GMT | Updated 27/11/2014 10:59 GMT

NASA has come up with a plan for the next generation of telescopes: high-altitude airships. Not just any airship though, a giant one capable of holding the same kind of equipment you'd expect to see on the ground.

Why? Well sadly the answer isn't: 'Well who wouldn't want to see giant airships in the sky again?' It's more to do with the air.

For a start there's far less of it at 65,000 feet, which means there are less molecules getting in the way of observations.

giant blimp

That said, there's still just enough air to make sure that an airship with engines would be able to fight the strong winds and remain in the same place for an extended period of time.

NASA's plan is to open up a competition called '20-20-20' which would get outside companies to bid for a grant by proving that they can build an powered airship that can carry 20kg or 20 hours.

The ultimate goal is 200kg for 200 hours but considering that the record duration for a powered airship at that altitude is just eight hours the organisation knows that there's quite a wall to climb.

If it goes ahead NASA is preparing to offer up between $2-3 million as a prize with the aim of eventually using these giant observatories as a replacement for their expensive rocket-based programs.