CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A new NASA deep-space probe designed to help answer fundamental questions about the nature of the universe launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., June 30 aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket.
The probe, called the Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP), is using two back-to-back, off-axis Gregorian telescopes and a microwave sensor system consisting of 10 4-channel "differencing assemblies," to make a map of the temperature fluctuations of cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation.
MAP will produce an accurate full-sky map of the cosmic microwave background temperature fluctuations with high sensitivity and angular resolution, say officials of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., the MAP sponsor.
In this way, astronomers can address five fundamental questions in cosmology: 1. Will the universe expand forever or will it eventually collapse? 2. Is the universe dominated by exotic dark matter? 3. What is the shape of the universe? 4. How and when did the first galaxies form? 5. Is the expansion of the universe accelerating?
CMB radiation is heat left over from the Big Bang, NASA officials say. Its properties can tell astronomers about physical conditions in the early universe.
The MAP flight hardware and software comes from a partnership of Goddard and Princeton University in Princeton, N.J. Supervising is a team of experts from the University of California At Los Angeles, the University of Chicago, the University of British Columbia, and Brown University.
Of the MAP instrument package, the high electron mobility transistor amplifiers are from designers at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, Va.; the microwave differencing assemblies are from Princeton; the instrument electronics are from experts at Goddard and Litton Industries in Woodland Hills, Calif.; and the optical assembly with thermal radiator is from Programmed Composites Inc. of Corona, Calif.
The MAP's attitude system has an optical star tracker from the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto, Calif.; type E reaction wheels from Ithaco Space Systems in Ithaca, N.Y.; a gyro from the Kearfott Guidance and Navigation Corp. in Wayne, N.J.; coarse and digital sun sensors from Adcole Corp. in Marlborough, Mass.; and attitude control electronics from Goddard and Litton.
The probe's command and data handling system and software are from Goddard, and its data-processing software comes from Goddard, Princeton, UCLA, and University of Chicago.
For more information, contact NASA Goddard on the World Wide Web at http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/ m_mm.html.