Two cosmic explorers named 'Best of What's New'
Posted: November 8, 2003

Two recently launched NASA missions won "Best of What's New" awards from Popular Science magazine. The two missions, the Space Infrared Telescope Facility (SIRTF) and Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX), which both probe the far reaches of our universe, are among the winners featured in the magazine's special December issue.

From thousands of products and developments, the magazine staff chose the top 100 technological innovations, in 12 categories, that could change the way we think about the future. The two NASA missions are being honored in the Aviation and Space category.

SIRTF, launched August 25, 2003, studies the universe in infrared wavelengths, while GALEX, launched April 28, 2003, uses ultraviolet detectors. Examining the cosmos at various wavelengths reveals different objects and phenomena. SIRTF completed NASA's suite of Great Observatories, including the Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and Chandra X-ray Observatory.

An artist's concept of SIRTF. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech
SIRTF pierces cosmic dust to study celestial objects too cool, too dust-enshrouded or too far away to be seen otherwise. It will observe galaxies, stars, and dusty discs around nearby stars, which may be "planetary construction zones."

"I'm delighted to receive this honor on behalf of our entire team, which has worked diligently to ensure the mission will gather revolutionary science data and beautiful images," said Project Manager Dave Gallagher, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif.

GALEX will scrutinize a million galaxies across 10 billion years of cosmic history. The data will help astronomers determine when the stars we see in our nighttime sky had their origins. The mission will help scientists understand how the Milky Way and other galaxies were formed.

"We're honored to be recognized by Popular Science, and look forward to sharing the exciting views of the universe arriving daily from the spacecraft," said GALEX Project Manager Dr. James Fanson, also of JPL.

An artist's concept of GALEX deployed in orbit. Credit: NASA
JPL manages the SIRTF mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, and conducts flight operations. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Greenbelt, Md., was responsible for building the Infrared Array Camera.

The SIRTF Science Center at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Pasadena, will handle all aspects of science operations, including data processing. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Sunnyvale, Calif., is responsible for spacecraft design and development, and observatory systems engineering, integration and testing. Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation, Boulder, Colo., is responsible for the design and development of the cryo- telescope assembly and integration of the science-instrument cold assemblies into the cryostat, and is subcontractor for two science instruments.

Caltech leads the GALEX mission and also is responsible for science operations and data analysis. JPL, a division of Caltech, manages the mission and built the science instrument. The mission was developed under NASA's Explorers Program, managed by GSFC. The mission's international partners include South Korea and France.