This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
, MD (Phone: 301/286-5566) RELEASE: 96-194 INTERNATIONAL ULTRAVIOLET EXPLORER PREPARED TO RECEIVE ITS FINAL COMMAND
September 30, 1996
After nearly 19 years of operation, NASA's International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE) spacecraft will receive its final "shutdown" -- marking the end of one of the longest and most productive missions in the history of space science. "The decision to shut down a hardy veteran like IUE was not an easy one," said Dr. Wesley Huntress, Associate Administrator for Space Science at NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC. "However, we have to balance our available budgetary resources with an increasing number of productive space science missions that require operational support. IUE has been incredibly productive over its long lifetime." Originally designed for a three-year life, the observatory and its spectrographic instruments enable studies of astronomical and cosmic phenomena that emit ultraviolet radiation, which is blocked from ground-based telescopes by Earth's atmosphere. IUE has been controlled from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, for the past two decades. "IUE was a pioneering research spacecraft for observing the ultraviolet spectrum," said Dr. Yoji Kondo, IUE project scientist at Goddard. "Many of the scientists that use the Hubble Space Telescope and other space-based observatories today began by studying the ultraviolet with IUE." Some of IUE's most recent research includes observations of Comet Hyakutake during March 1996. Scientists using IUE tracked and observed the nucleus of Comet Hyakutake for five days, obtaining exposures of up to five hours in duration that provided new insights into the chemical processes taking place inside the comet. The comet was found to be ejecting ten tons of water every second as it passed near the Sun. Astronomers also were able to confirm that the "break up" event of March 24 involved only a small piece of the comet, Kondo said. IUE has contributed to many branches of astronomical research over the years, ranging from studies of objects in the Solar System to observations of distant galaxies. This includes the historic first identification of the star that exploded and became known as Supernova 1987A.
Goddard has operated the IUE in three-way collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (formerly the British Science Engineering and Research Council) of the United Kingdom since the spacecraft's launch on Jan. 26, 1978. IUE has been operated in a real-time mode similar to ground-based observatories, and was the only geosynchronous scientific satellite observatory capable of working continuously 24 hours per day. More than 2,000 guest observers from all corners of the world, including astronomers from North and South America, Europe, China, India, Russia, Africa, and Australia, have used the observatory at Goddard and through the ESA control site in Spain. Approximately 3,500 scientific articles based on IUE observations have been published in peer-reviewed journals -- the largest number for any satellite observatory thus far. In addition, more than 500 doctoral students have used IUE results in their dissertations, clearly demonstrating the importance of the IUE project to the education of the next generation of astrophysicists. "IUE has contributed significantly to astronomical science over the years. Yet its ultimate legacy will be the final data archive, which will be completed by the end of 1997," Kondo said. "Using newly developed software, additional scientific information will be gleaned from more than 100,000 astronomical observations that are currently being reprocessed. This data archive will be stored for future reference and will remain an important resource for astrophysical studies for many years to come." As part of NASA's continuing budget reduction efforts, day-to-day science control of the IUE was fully transferred to ESA on Oct. 1, 1995, thus combining the NASA and ESA IUE science programs, although Goddard maintained responsibility for the daily operational maintenance of the spacecraft. It was jointly decided by NASA and ESA that final shutdown would occur on Sept. 30, 1996. A past winner of the U.S. Presidential Award for Design Excellence, IUE has been used as a central facility in many multiwavelength observations, an important modern approach to astrophysical research. The spacecraft has been used in conjunction with ground-based telescopes and other space observatories, including the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope. More information on IUE and other related astrophysics missions is available on the Internet at URL: http://iuewww.gsfc.nasa.gov/iue/iue_homepage.html -endEditor's note: A more detailed list of IUE scientific highlights is available from the NASA Goddard Public Affairs Office at 301/286-8955.