CNN WIRE Story

J. Kocijanski (kocis@catskill.net)
Wed, 10 Mar 1999 10:56:57 GMT

This was posted at the CNN site.


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</bigger></fontfamily><bigger><bold><fontfamily><param>Helvetica</param><big=
ger><bigger><bigger>WIRE
mission to study galaxy formation declared a loss=20

</bigger></bigger></bigger></fontfamily></bold><fontfamily><param>Times</par=
am>	 =20

</fontfamily></bigger><bold><italic><fontfamily><param>Verdana</param><color=
><param>3333,3333,3333</param><smaller>March
9, 1999

</smaller></color></fontfamily></italic></bold><italic><fontfamily><param>Ve=
rdana</param><color><param>3333,3333,3333</param><smaller>Web
posted at: 12:35 p.m. EST (1735 GMT)

</smaller></color></fontfamily></italic><fontfamily><param>Times</param><big=
ger>GREENBELT,
Maryland (CNN) -- After declaring a mission to study galactic evolution
dead before it began, NASA this week hopes to at least find out what
went wrong and to test some new technologies.=20

The Wide-Field Infrared Explorer mission was lost after all the frozen
hydrogen needed to cool the satellite's telescope melted and vented
into space soon after launch, NASA said Monday.=20

The space agency tried desperately to regain control of the spinning
spacecraft this weekend. Ground controllers have slowed the spin
somewhat by using the satellite's magnetic attitude control system and
hope to stabilize it by the end of the week.=20

NASA spent about $73 million on the satellite's development, launch and
operations, spokesman Don Savage said. Had the mission continued and
the data been analyzed, the total cost would have exceeded $80 million.


"We are very disappointed at the loss of WIRE's science program," said
Dr. Ed Weiler, NASA's space science associate administrator. NASA is
creating a formal investigation board to find out what happened and
prevent future mishaps.=20

Weiler remained confident future missions could accomplish some of the
goals. "It will be science delayed rather than science lost," he said.


WIRE was designed to gather information on "starburst" galaxies, those
in which rapid star formation takes place. It was also going to study
infant galaxies known as protogalaxies. Scientist had expected to
detect at least 50,000 galaxies.=20

The satellite incorporated a variety of new technologies and it can
still be used as an engineering "testbed," said Lynn Jenner, a
spokeswoman for Goddard Space Flight Center, where it was developed
under the Small Explorer program.=20

A Pegasus rocket dropped from an aircraft flying off the California
coast launched WIRE on March 4. The satellite was on its second orbit
when ground stations detected that it was spinning rather than
maintaining a stable orientation, and that the cryostat -- the
container for the hydrogen -- was warmer than expected.=20

The hydrogen was supposed to have lasted four months. Instead, it
rapidly melted and vented. The force of that venting is believed to
have caused the spin. Officials think a cover over the telescope came
off prematurely and allowed sunlight to fall on the instrument, setting
off that the chain of events that wrecked the mission.=20

NASA's Small Explorer program (SMEX) is a series of highly focused and
relatively inexpensive space science missions. </bigger></fontfamily>