Inflated claims prove a true view

19.06.46: THEY SAID it was impossible. Yet the Chinese and US space agencies yesterday succeeded in deploying a 10km inflatable telescope in space.

The telescope, which is floating 150m kilometres from Earth at the Lagrange-2 point, where our planet's gravitational pull and that of the sun are exactly in balance, is merely the first of 15 inflatable telescopes that will eventually be deployed. Used in concert, they will mimic the capacity of a single giant optical telescope 100,000km across.

The Extrasolar Planet Finder Array uses a novel system of 'adaptive mechanics' to keep the individual inflatable mirrors rigid in the face of the continual buffeting they receive from micrometeorites and the solar wind. Astronomers say the array will provide detailed pictures of thousands of Earth-like planets in our galaxy. MC

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