Status Report

MAP spacecraft successfully launches and begins its journey to deep space

By SpaceRef Editor
June 30, 2001
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A NASA spacecraft set to probe the far reaches of the Universe soared into
space today.

The Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP) lifted off on schedule at 3:46 p.m.
Eastern aboard a Delta II rocket from Pad B at Space Launch Complex 17, Cape
Canaveral Air Force Station, FL. About 90 minutes later–also on
schedule–MAP separated from the Delta II third stage, deployed its solar
arrays and began its journey to answer fundamental questions about the
history, content, shape and fate of the Universe.

“We’re off to a fantastic start,” said Clifton Jackson, MAP Mission Systems
Engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. “Everything
is looking good so far.”

Science observations will begin once MAP reaches its L2 orbit. L2 is the
second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system. L2 is four times farther
from the Earth than the Moon in the direction opposite the Sun, or about one
million miles from Earth. MAP is the first spacecraft to use an orbit
around the L2 point as its observing station.

MAP is currently in a highly elliptical Earth orbit. In approximately one
month, MAP will execute a gravity-assist swing past the Moon and then travel
for two months to get to its L2 orbit. This particular trajectory is
designed to minimize the use of fuel. From L2, MAP will have an
unobstructed view of the sky, and will be free from near-Earth disturbances
such as magnetic fields and microwave emission for its two years of science

“MAP’s launch was exhilarating. For many, it was the culmination of years
of hard work,” said Dr. Charles L. Bennett, MAP Principal Investigator, also
from Goddard. “MAP is beginning its journey into deep space to record
microwave light from the early Universe, now no more than a faint whisper
from 14 billion years ago.” The MAP mission is set to answer important
questions such as: What is the content and structure of the Universe? How
did the Universe evolve? What is its ultimate fate?

MAP is a partnership between Goddard and Princeton University, NJ. Science
team members are also located at the University of Chicago, the University
of California, Los Angeles, Brown University, Providence, RI; and the
University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

More information on the MAP mission can be found at the following websites:

SpaceRef staff editor.