August 18, 2009

NASA’s WISE satellite readied for launch

NASA says its Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer spacecraft called WISE has arrived at its last stop on Earth -- Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

The space agency said WISE is scheduled to be launched from Vandenberg in December to scan the entire sky at infrared wavelengths, searching for asteroids, stars and galaxies.

WISE has arrived and is almost ready to go, said William Irace, the mission's project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. After we check the spacecraft out and fill the telescope cooling tanks with solid hydrogen, we'll mate it to the rocket and launch.

WISE is an infrared space telescope like two currently orbiting missions, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory, a European Space Agency-NASA mission. But, unlike those satellites, WISE will survey the entire sky creating rough maps for other observatories, such as Spitzer and NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope.

WISE will survey the cosmic landscape in the infrared so that future telescopes can home in on the most interesting 'properties,' said Edward Wright, the principal investigator for the mission at UCLA.

WISE will create a legacy that endures for decades, added Peter Eisenhardt, the mission's project scientist at JPL. Today, we still refer to the catalogue of our predecessor, the Infrared Astronomical Satellite, which operated in 1983.