sometimes called the "ignorosphere" by atmospheric researchers, isdifficult to study because it is too high for even the largestresearch balloons, which only reach a maximum altitude of about 25miles (40 km). The region is still dense enough, however, toquickly cause a satellite to decay from orbit.Most atmospheric research explores the lowest layers in theEarth's atmosphere, the troposphere, where all terrestrial lifeexists, and the next higher layer, the stratosphere, wherelarge-scale weather patterns such as the jet stream occur and inwhich modern jet aircraft routinely fly. - more - - 2 -The upper regions, which include the mesosphere and lowerthermosphere, are fundamental to understanding the Earth'satmosphere since they are the "skin" between the life-sustaininglower layers and outer space.These regions absorb a considerable amount of the ultravioletradiation from the sun. Also, they intercept the high energyatomic particles that come from the Sun or that are accelerated byyet unknown processes within the Earth's own magnetosphere, anarea that surrounds the planet like a giant cocoon.The most common evidence of the absorption of energy fromhigh energy particles are the northern and southern lights, oraurora, that can be seen shimmering in the night sky at highgeographical latitudes, especially during the epochs of maximumsolar activity which occur every 11 years.The TIMED mission is planned to have a nominal lifetime of 2years, sufficient to provide global coverage of the mesosphere andlower thermosphere through 2 full cycles of the Earth's seasons.TIMED is the first of a so-called "intermediate" series of space physics missions characterized by having a tightlycontrolled, pre-determined budget caps and a limited, focused setof science objectives to be accomplished in a pre-specifiedlifetime. All of these limitations aid in establishing a fixedcost for the entire mission, from beginning to end. TIMED iscurrently under consideration as a new start candidate.