Unfortunately, they had only a microwave interferometer in mind and passed on a concept I had advanced with Charles Townes (left, with his maser, and right, my tunable laser) of the University of California at Berkeley to use the optical spectrum to not only find planets around other starts, but, as importantly, determine the atmospheric composition. I again bring this subject up because last week Charles Townes passed away, and, coincidentally, a University of Hawaii researcher reported the day following that he had found three earth-like planets. You will better understand my exasperation about this field after I provide some details.
Project Cyclops, our team was commanded to design a microwave interferometer, which I didn't think was the ideal "telescope" for this particular application. So they allowed me to find another option. It was a grand summer of living in a Stanford married student apartment across the street from my freshman dormitory, golfing at the Palo Alto Muni, taking a wine-tasting course at night, watching the 1976 Olympics emanating from Montreal and, by the way, traipsing around northern California collecting info and talking to experts about an innovative way to find the first extrasolar planet.
Even worse, in my mind, is that the replacement, the Kepler Telescope, only costing $600 million, which became operational in 2009, also used transit, a clearly obsolete technique. Kepler lost its second gear in May of 2013, but some ingenious effort by scientists from the Ames Research Center has allowed the spacecraft to function for a short while longer. I hate to say even worse, but the next telescope, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, said to be a 2017 launch, will also use transit, but at least will only cost of $200 million. Feel free to multiply that figure by any number from two to ten.
Above are the types of stars being explored. While we are small compared to the really large ones, our Sun is, actually, brighter than 95% of all the stars. Those M-types, the smallest, less than half our mass, make up 75% of all the stars up there.
re-initiate the effort suggested in CONTACT.