Thursday, September 18, 2014

Top Secret Clearance Required for Next Space Telescope Director

James Webb space telescope mirror segments
SPYING THE HEAVENS: The director of the James Webb Space Telescope might have to guard national secrets, judging by the level of security clearance NASA requires. Here, six segments of the telescope's primary mirror undergo testing in preparation for launch in 2018. (Image Source: NASA)
By Clara Moskowitz 
Conspiracy theorists may wonder, why does NASA’s next major telescope director need top secret clearance? The space agency recently posted a want ad for a person to lead its James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) program, and in addition to aerospace engineering credentials and management experience, the candidate must have the highest possible level of security credentials.

NASA says the requirement is standard, although the ad raised some eyebrows in the security community. “It seems quite unusual,” says former CIA analyst Allen Thomson, who speculates that the clearance might allow the JWST director to coordinate using NASA telescope technology for National Reconnaissance Office satellites. Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy noted the requirement on his Secrecy News blog. “My first reaction was surprise that this was among the key requirements for the position,” Aftergood says. “And it’s a sign of just how closely the civilian space program is intertwined with national security.”
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Source: Scientific American Magazine.

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