ALBANY, New York (AP) -- Corning Inc. has donated $1.8 million in high-tech components for a telescope a private group wants to launch into space.
The not-for-profit BoldlyGo Institute wants to put its ASTRO-1 telescope in orbit by the mid-2020s. Obtaining the components for a roughly 6-foot (1.8-meter) telescope primary mirror will significantly contribute to the ambitious goal, the group said Tuesday in announcing the donation.
The institute is beginning to raise cash and material for the project, which its CEO, Jon Morse, hopes will cost "well under" $1 billion.
"This is a huge step forward that allows us to hit the ground running as we raise additional resources," said Morse, a former director of astrophysics at NASA Headquarters.
The institute was formed last fall to increase the number and variety of space science mission through private funding. The ASTRO-1 space telescope would be used to study planets orbiting nearby stars, as well as the Milky Way and other galaxies. Morse said the telescope would have 10 times the field of view of the Hubble Space Telescope and could be used for exploration years from now when Hubble stops working well.
The group, whose board includes members with links to NASA, also wants to fund an unmanned trip to Mars.
"We all recognize, having worked in NASA, that there are not enough resources to pursue all the great ideas that are out there, so we're hoping to help build out the portfolio through private funding," Morse said.
The components donated by the Corning, New York-based specialty glass maker had been intended for a NASA program that was canceled. Corning declined to specify the project, citing customer confidentiality.
Corning has produced window glass for NASA's manned spacecraft missions and the International Space Station. It also produced the Hubble Space Telescope's primary mirror.
Company officials said the donation is part of Corning's continued support of space exploration.
"The work of the BoldlyGo Institute and the ASTRO-1 space telescope will continue this critical research for another generation, and we are proud to support it," Curt Weinstein, a Corning vice president and general manager, said in a statement.