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NASA plans to have a new set of eyes in space by 2023. The space agency has been approved of a mission called Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer and nicknamed SPHEREx. The instrument will study the evolution of the universe and how common some crucial building blocks of life are across our galaxy.
"I'm really excited about this new mission," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "Not only does it expand the United States' powerful fleet of space-based missions dedicated to uncovering the mysteries of the universe, it is a critical part of a balanced science program that includes missions of various sizes."
The SPHEREx is capable of obtaining optical and near-infrared light from an impressive number of sources: more than 100 million stars in the Milky Way itself and more than 300 million other galaxies.
The instrument will scan and retrieve data in 96 different wavelengths of light. It will also map molecules which are the fundamental ingredients for life. Besides, it will help the astronomers understand the origin of our universe.
The data sent back by the SPHEREx will also come in handy for future space telescope missions, the James Webb Space Telescope, and the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope.
"This amazing mission will be a treasure trove of unique data for astronomers," Thomas Zurbuchen said in the same statement. "It will deliver an unprecedented galactic map containing 'fingerprints' from the first moments in the universe's history. And we'll have new clues to one of the greatest mysteries in science: What made the universe expand so quickly less than a nanosecond after the big bang?"
The mission is due for 2023 and has cost $242 million until now, excluding the launch costs.