Status Report

MAPSwings By the Moon On Its Way to L2

By SpaceRef Editor
August 6, 2001
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The Microwave Anisotropy
Probe (MAP) successfully completed the lunar gravity assist needed
for its journey to L2, the second Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth
system. The lunar swing-by occurred midday on Monday, July 30.

MAP, as the
spacecraft is affectionately called, was placed in the proper orientation
for the lunar swing-by completing a series of three phasing loops.
Each phasing loop was about a week-long. MAP will reach L2 on October
1, approximately three months after launch.

MAP was launched
on a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral, FL on June 30 at 3:46
p.m. Eastern. To date all satellite systems are functioning well.

Upon completion
of the three month journey to L2, MAP will begin to chart the faint
microwave glow from the Big Bang. L2 is about one million miles
from Earth. MAP is the first spacecraft to use an orbit around the
L2 point as its permanent observing station. It will take about
18 months to build up a full-sky picture and perform the analysis.

Scientists hope
to determine the content, shape, history, and the ultimate fate
of the universe, by constructing a full-sky picture of the oldest
light. MAP is designed to capture the afterglow of the Big Bang,
which comes to us from a time well before there were any stars,
galaxies or quasars. Patterns imprinted within this afterglow carry
with them the answers to cosmic mysteries such as: What happened
during the first instant after the Big Bang? How did the Universe
evolve into the complex patterns of galaxies that we see today?
Will the Universe expand forever or will it collapse?

MAP views the
infant universe by measuring the tiny temperature differences within
the extraordinarily evenly dispersed microwave light, which now
averages a frigid 2.73 degrees above absolute zero temperature.
MAP will resolve the slight temperature fluctuations, which vary
by only millionths of a degree. These temperature differences point
back to density differences in the young Universe, where denser
regions gave way to the vast web-like structure of galaxies that
we see today.
for more information on the mission.

SpaceRef staff editor.