* 2nd Servicing Mission to Hubble Space Telescope:
NICMOS shuttle launch, Feb. 13, 1997--
Until now, the Hubble Space Telescope has been infrared blind.
As a result, some of the most tantalizing objects in the Universe -- the most distant and the most dust-obscured -- have remained largely unexplored. Astronomers need to study the nature and existence of very distant objects to discover the true shape, size, structure and future of the Universe. They need views through dark masses of dust and gas to witness the birth of galaxies, stars and planets. They need views through the dusty centers of galaxies to understand the nature of quasars and black holes.
Early next year, a space shuttle Discovery crew of seven on a 9 day, 22-hour mission will give the Hubble Space Telescope its first infrared "eyes." Space-walking astronauts will install an instrument called NICMOS, the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer. A University of Arizona-led science team developed the $100 million system. It will both measure the Universe and observe celestial objects at their creation.
NICMOS will operate its sensitive, cryogenically-cooled "eyes," which are three separate 256 x 256 detector arrays, at infrared wavelengths longer than the human eye can see, at between eight-tenths of a micron and 2.5 microns. NICMOS has three cameras of different magnifications plus filters, polarizers, prisms for spectroscopy and coronagraphic masks. In space, it will observe unimpeded by Earth's atmosphere, a chaotic ocean of air filled with infrared-light absorbing water vapor and its own natural sources of infrared light pollution.
When asked to describe NICMOS in a single word, UA astronomy professor Rodger I. Thompson, principal investigator for the project, said, "Fantastic!"
Contacts: Rodger I. Thompson, principal investigator, 520-621-6527; Marcia J. Rieke, deputy principal investigator, 520-621-2731; Frank J. Low, 520-621-2727; Donald W. McCarthy, 520-621-4079; Erick T. Young, 520-621-4119; and John M. Hill, 520-621-3940 are UA astronomers on the NICMOS science team.
Also on the team: Eric Becklin, University of California - Los Angeles; John Black, Chalmers University, Sweden; Harland Epps, University of California - Santa Cruz; Edwin Erickson, NASA Ames Research Center; Donald Hall, University of Hawaii; John McGraw, University of New Mexico; Nicholas Scoville, California Institute of Technology; Bradford Smith, Hawaii; Hyron Spinrad, University of California - Berkeley; Richard Terrile, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory; and Ray Weymann, Carnegie Institutions of Washington.
News Services: UA News Services will have a 30-minute resource Beta video ready for release to broadcast media after mid-October. It includes footage from an interview with NICMOS science team leader Rodger Thompson, footage from a recent NICMOS science team meeting, and color stills taken of NICMOS during assembly at Ball Aerospace in Boulder. For video and other background on NICMOS, contact Lori Stiles, 520-626-4402, or Julieta Gonzalez, 520-626-4336.
For photos taken of NICMOS during assembly at Ball, and for Ball Aerospace artist Scott Kahler's illustrations of astronauts installing NICMOS in the HST, contact David Aguilar or Ken Hutchinson of Ball Aerospace & Technologies, Public Affairs office, 303-460-2247.
Photo opportunity: NICMOS will be shipped from Ball Aerospace Corp. in Boulder, Colo., where it was manufactured and is undergoing final tests, to the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) at Greenbelt, Md., early next month. NICMOS will be at Goddard about two months, where technicians and scientists will test it together with other instruments to be installed on the space telescope. Also at Goddard, the astronaut crew will practice installing NICMOS into a simulated space telescope. Around Thanksgiving, the instrument will be shipped to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and be readied for launch.
NASA information: NASA Headquarters Public Affairs coordinates a team of public affairs officers involved in the 2nd HST Servicing Mission. They are from NASA centers, from the European Space Agency, from HST contractors in industry, and from the UA (News Services - Lori Stiles, 520-626-4402, and Julieta Gonzalez, 520-626-4336.) Media packets, video and other resources about this mission are scheduled for release beginning about three months before launch. Contact: Don Savage, NASA Headquarters Public Affairs Officer, 202-358-1727.
During the 2nd HST Servicing Mission, news operations will be centered at Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral and Johnson Space Center at Houston. After the mission, NASA news and updates on the Space Telescope and its newly installed instruments will be issued from Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.