The Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (PAN-STARRS) is designed to observe the entire sky several times per month. Its primary goal is to discover dangerous objects that might pose a threat to Earth. A wide-field survey will also help locate new Kuiper Belt Objects, extrasolar planets, gamma ray bursts and many other interesting objects. This ground-based system is less expensive and potentially more useful than Space-based surveys.
For cosmology, the system will allow surveys of galaxy clustering and gravitational lensing. For those interested in Type Ia supernovae, PAN-STARRS can locate 5000 of them. A far more expensive Joint Dark Energy Mission would only detect about 2000. JDEM concepts like SNAP would have a lifetime measured in months, and could not be repaired like Hubble. PAN-STARRS will last indefinitely. More supernovae for 1/10 the cost, a very good deal.
This prototype telescope was dedicated June 30 atop Haleakala on Maui. This is Hawaii's "other" telescope mountain; 10,023 feet high. The US Air Force has maintained observatories here for many years. The full system will have 4 telescopes, erected either here or on Mauna Kea. The latter has better observing conditions and infrastructure, but faces local concerns about overbuilding on a sacred mountain.
As this is written, the Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) is broken, probably beyond repair. The ACS was installed during Servicing Mission 3B in March 2002. It has been used for surveys of everything from supernovae to galaxies. Some spectacular photos of gravitational lensing came from ACS. The camera is not scheduled to be replaced on the servicing flight. That mission is currently scheduled for September 11, 2008; the last flight of Shuttle Atlantis.