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NASA's MAP Spacecraft named one to the best innovations by Popular Science

Press Release From: Goddard Space Flight Center
Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2001

NASA's Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP) is cited as one of the best innovations in aviation and space in the December issue of Popular Science.

"Tremendous public attention and excitement surrounded the launch of the MAP mission this past summer," said Dr. Charles L. Bennett, MAP Principal Investigator from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "The selection of MAP as one of the 'Best' of the year by Popular Science magazine highlights that excitement as our nation continues to produce great science and technology."

Each recipient is chosen for its ability to improve in some way the quality of life. Throughout the year, Popular Science reviews new products and technologies and features the top 100 in its annual Best of What's New edition.

MAP will scan the sky for over two years, gathering information on the faint cosmic glow. Scientists hope to determine the content, shape, history, and the ultimate fate of the universe, by constructing a full-sky picture of the 14 billion year old light left over from the Big Bang. The patterns in this light across the sky contain a wealth of details about the nature, composition and destiny of the universe.

To view the infant universe, measurements of the tiny temperature differences within the microwave light, which now averages 2.73 degrees above absolute zero, must be taken. The extraordinary design of MAP allows it to measure the slight temperature fluctuations to within millionths of a degree. The exceptional accuracy of MAP has the potential to transform current views of the universe.

The measurements are taken from a point in deep space known as L2. The L2 point is one million miles from Earth in the direction opposite the Sun. This orbit was chosen because it is quasi-stable and requires very little fuel to maintain its position.

MAP launched on June 30, 2001 aboard a Delta II rocket. The space probe was placed into a highly elliptical orbit around the Earth. MAP stayed in this orbit while ground controllers performed a series of maneuvers to slingshot MAP around the Earth using the spacecraft's on-board thrusters. The maneuvers placed MAP in the proper orientation for a gravity assist from the Moon. The lunar swing-by occurred on July 30 and on Oct. 1 MAP reached its permanent orbiting station of L2. The MAP instrument is performing well and has begun to take its first full-sky picture of the cosmic background radiation.

MAP was produced in partnership between Princeton University, N.J. and Goddard. Goddard and Princeton University produced the MAP hardware and software. In addition to Goddard and Princeton, science team members are located at the University of Chicago, the University of California, Los Angeles, Brown University, Providence, R.I., and the University of the British of Columbia, Vancouver.

MAP, an Explorer mission, is managed by Goddard for NASA's Office of Space Science.

More information is available on the Internet at: http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov

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