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

“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.

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