After its three-month journey in space, NASA’s Microwave
Anisotropy Probe (MAP) moved into its new home a million
miles from Earth and is ready to chart the oldest light in
the cosmos.

“We can now begin the process of observing the remnants of
the early Universe,” said Dr. Charles L. Bennett, MAP
Principal Investigator from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight
Center in Greenbelt, Md. “There is great anticipation within
the astronomy community about this mission because of the
potential it has to give us key clues to the content, shape,
history and the ultimate fate of our Universe.”

MAP, launched June 30, 2001, and was placed into a highly
elliptical orbit around the Earth. From there, the spacecraft
team executed a series of maneuvers using on-board thrusters
to bring MAP around the Earth three times and position it for
a gravity-assist boost from the Moon. The lunar swing-by
occurred a month after launch, on July 30.

Since then, MAP has cruised toward L2, a quasi-stable
position one million miles from Earth in the direction
opposite the Sun. While previous missions have passed through
the L2 neighborhood, MAP is the first mission to use an L2
orbit as its permanent observing station.

All of MAP’s spacecraft and instrument systems are performing
admirably. “Both the operations team and the science team are
ecstatic because of MAP’s outstanding performance,” added
Bennett. “Everything is going extremely well.”

MAP will scan the skies over two years, collecting
information on the faint cosmic glow in five distinct
wavebands of light. The data will be analyzed and made into a
full sky map for each waveband. The first sky map results are
expected about December 2002.

The space probe will collect the information needed to make a
map of the entire sky in the microwave light left over from
the Big Bang. The entire universe is bathed in this afterglow
light. This is the oldest light in the universe and has been
traveling for 14 billion years. The patterns in this light
across the sky encode a wealth of details about the nature,
composition and destiny of the universe.

The images of the infant universe are viewed by measuring
tiny temperature differences within the microwave light,
which now averages 2.73 degrees above absolute zero. The
extraordinary design of MAP allows it to measure the slight
temperature fluctuations to within millionths of a degree.
The unprecedented accuracy of MAP has the potential to
revolutionize current views of the universe.

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 in Washington at a cost of about $95

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