ATLAST (The Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope) is the acronym that distinguishes the project of the next Hubble Space Telescope: a gem capable of studying and mapping the atmosphere and surface of habitable exoplanets within a radius of 200 light years.
The ability to capture light in all its spectrum and state-of-the-art technologies are two peculiarities that can easily be summarized in a feature that will make ATLAST the largest human eye on the universe: the magnitude of the optics. The 'old' Hubble 2.0 has a large lens 6,5 , 12 meters. The largest optical telescope on Earth, the Large Binocular Telescope has an optical aperture of 16 meters. ATLAST will aim to have XNUMX.
In other words, from 5 to 10 times the observation capacity that the best current telescope can currently boast, but with a sensitivity limit up to 2000 times greater. This enormous deployment of forces will allow not only to observe and search habitable planets in a wider belt (200 light years), but also to measure their surface and atmosphere: a bit like looking directly in search of extraterrestrial life. I am convinced that the presence of intelligent life in the universe is an obvious and inevitable detail, and that our 'encounter' with civilizations other than ours depends on time: maybe there won't be spaceship landings like in science fiction films, but one day we could take a picture of some very far away friends.
And start thinking: how do we tell them we're here?
Well: the problem will arise in no less than 20 years: the eye of the ATLAST is expected to be launched on an intermediate date between 2025 and 2035. Our nice telescope will position itself in a geostationary orbit and will start looking around until to 2055. I could be 80 when he retires. Better not to think about it :)