NASA names third Great Observatory ChandraBy Steve Koppes
Named after the late Chicago astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, NASAs third Great Observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, is scheduled to be launched July 20 aboard the space shuttle Columbia.
The chosen launch date has special significance as it commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and because Chandra, in Sanskrit, means moon or luminous.
The observatory is scheduled to be launched aboard Columbia at 12:28 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 20, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The shuttle flight will provide astronomers with a new look at the universe, and it will make history as the five-day mission will be led by U.S. Air Force Col. Eileen Collins, the first woman to command an American space mission.
The flights primary objective will be to deploy this third Great Observatory, which follows NASAs other two, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Compton Gamma-ray Observatory, also named for Chicago scientists.
Collins and her crew of four will carry the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the heaviest payload ever deployed from the shuttle, into orbit and deploy it approximately seven hours after launch. An upper stage will carry the observatory to its final orbit, more than one-third of the way to the moon. The Chandra X-ray Observatory will allow scientists to obtain unprecedented X-ray images of exploding stars, black holes and other exotic environments to help them understand the structure and evolution of the universe.
Among the scientists using the observatory in their research will be Chicago astronomers John Carlstrom, Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics, Don Lamb, Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics, and Robert Rosner, the William E. Rather Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics.