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 Tuesday, June 22, 2004 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter

FROM THE CHANCELLOR


LASP's Preeminence In Space Sciences Soaring To New Heights

CU-Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, already one of the premier space research, engineering and education institutes in the world, reached new heights in late June with the arrival of the international, $3 billion Cassini-Huygens mission at Saturn.

On June 30, LASP hosted a record-breaking crowd of more than 650 staff, faculty, students and community members who watched the arrival of the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft, which is carrying a $12.5 million CU-Boulder instrument package. The spacecraft is beginning a four-year mission to probe the planet, its fabulous ring system and bizarre moons.

A team of LASP scientists and students designed and built the ultraviolet imaging spectrograph, or UVIS, an instrument package which can detect UV signatures of atoms and molecules and provide information on the composition and temperatures of the Saturn system. The CU experiment also contains a high-speed photometer, which will help determine the structure and patterns of Saturn's rings by observing how starlight passes through them. The LASP team hopes to learn more about how gravity, magnetic energy and other forces hold the enigmatic rings together.

LASP also was recently selected by NASA to build two of the three instruments for a satellite that will launch on the AIM mission in 2006 to study noctilucent clouds, the shiny, silvery-blue polar mesospheric clouds that form about 50 miles over Earth's polar regions each summer. LASP will receive about $20 million for the design and construction of two instruments, satellite control and data analysis.

And LASP researchers, directed by Senior Research Associate Gary Rottman, designed and built an $88 million NASA satellite to study how and why variations in the sun affect Earth's atmosphere and climate. SORCE, or Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment, is the largest project LASP has ever undertaken. SORCE was launched in 2003 and is still working flawlessly after more than a year in orbit. A performance evaluation of the satellite by NASA rated it excellent in all categories, a rating received by fewer than 4 percent of NASA missions.

LASP has grown steadily since the early 1990s when it employed about 72 research and professional staff and focused on one project at a time under contract to NASA, its primary funding source.

Today, LASP receives $35 million annually from a number of federal funding sources, and employs 180 full-time research and professional staff and about 100 students. LASP is now conducting five major flight-build programs, all in various stages of completion and has contracts for more than 130 data and research programs with NASA. In fact, federal funding is sponsoring a new building expansion to allow LASP to bring its physical space in line with increased project demand.

LASP's distinctive achievements are the result of extraordinary efforts by researchers over many years of study and experimentation. My thanks to LASP director Dan Baker, Professor Larry Esposito, UVIS instrument team leader, and the many LASP researchers and students for your significant contributions to the University of Colorado at Boulder.


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