FUSE Pre-launch Press Science Briefing

Donald Savage
Headquarters, Washington, DC                     June 8, 1999
(Phone:  202/358-1547)

Donna Drelick
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
(Phone:  301/286-8955)

Gary Dorsey
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
(Phone:  410/516-7160)

RELEASE:  99-68


     Scientists will soon have a new tool to search for the 
"fossil record" of the Big Bang and uncover clues about the 
evolution of the universe. Scheduled to launch June 23, NASA's Far 
Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) will observe nearby 
planets and the farthest reaches of the universe and will provide 
a detailed picture of the immense structure of our own Milky Way 

     The FUSE mission's primary scientific focus will be the study 
of hydrogen and deuterium (a different form of hydrogen), which 
were created shortly after the Big Bang.  With this information, 
astronomers in effect will be able to look back in time at the 
infant universe.

     By examining these earliest relics of the birth of the 
universe, astronomers hope to better understand the processes that 
led to the formation and evolution of stars, including our solar 
system.  Ultimately, scientists hope data from FUSE will allow 
them to make a huge leap of understanding about how the primordial 
elements were created and have been distributed since the 
beginning of time.  

     "We think that as stars age deuterium is destroyed," said 
NASA's Dr. George Sonneborn, Goddard Space Flight Center, 
Greenbelt, MD, the FUSE project scientist. "Mapping deuterium 
throughout the Milky Way will give us a better understanding of 
how elements are mixed, distributed and destroyed."

     "The big questions are these: Do we understand the origins of 
the universe, and do we understand how galaxies evolve?" said Dr. 
Kenneth Sembach, a FUSE science team member from the Johns Hopkins 
University, Baltimore, MD.  "Because FUSE can observe ultraviolet 
light that other telescopes can't, we can test in unique ways how 
deuterium and other elements are circulated within galaxies. That 
in turn may test the limits of the Big Bang theory." 

     Among the cosmic questions FUSE will tackle are:
     -- What were conditions like in the first few minutes after 
the Big Bang?  Will studying the "fossil remnant" deuterium change 
current theories of the Big Bang? 
     -- How are the elements dispersed throughout galaxies, and 
how does this affect the way galaxies evolve?
     -- What are the properties of the interstellar gas clouds out 
of which stars and planets form?
     -- Does the Milky Way have a vast galactic fountain that 
gives birth to stars, spews hot gas, circulates elements and 
churns out cosmic material over and over?

     FUSE was developed for NASA by Johns Hopkins, which has the 
primary responsibility for all aspects of the project.  NASA is 
responsible for the launch.  FUSE is the first NASA mission of 
this scope that has been developed and operated entirely by a 
university.  Dr. Warren Moos, Professor of Physics and Astronomy 
at Johns Hopkins, is Principal Investigator for FUSE.

     The 3,000-pound FUSE satellite consists of two sections: the 
spacecraft and the science instrument.  The spacecraft, built by 
Orbital Sciences Corp., Germantown, MD, contains all elements 
necessary for powering and pointing the satellite.  The spacecraft 
and the science instrument each have their own computers, which 
coordinate the activities of the satellite.

     The FUSE science instrument, built by Johns Hopkins, consists 
of telescope mirrors, a spectrograph, which breaks ultraviolet 
light into its component colors for study, and an electronic guide 
camera.  Johns Hopkins built the FUSE instrument in collaboration 
with the Canadian Space Agency, which provided the camera; the 
French Space Agency, which provided a component of the 
spectrograph; the University of Colorado, Boulder; the University 
of California, Berkeley; and Swales Aerospace, Beltsville, MD.  
The FUSE mission and science control center is located on the 
Johns Hopkins Homewood Campus, Baltimore, with support from 
Interface and Controls Systems and AlliedSignal Technical Services 
Corp., both of Columbia, MD. 

     FUSE will be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Station, FL, 
aboard a Boeing Delta II rocket into a circular orbit 477 miles 
(768 kilometers) above Earth, and will orbit about every 100 
minutes.  The satellite must operate on its own most of the time, 
moving from target to target, identifying star fields, centering 
objects in the spectrograph apertures and performing the 
observations. The three-year FUSE mission costs $204 million.

     The Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD manages FUSE, 
one of the first missions in NASA's Origins program, for NASA's 
Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. 

     Information on the FUSE mission and NASA's Origins program 
can be found at:




                             - end -

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