IN THE SPOTLIGHT
LASP: 50 years as a forerunner in space research
In recognition of past research and technology innovations in solar programs, NASA recently awarded the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) the largest research contract granted at CU-Boulder. The $485 million contribution was entrusted to LASP because of their reputation as one of the nation’s leaders in advanced space research developed over the past 50 years.
“Many people at CU are not aware that LASP is a world-class facility, capable of designing and building instruments for spacecraft and even entire spacecrafts and for operating some NASA spacecraft,” said Bruce Jakosky, associate director of science for LASP and principle investigator for MAVEN.
NASA chose LASP to direct MAVEN. The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission is a space operation determined to probe the upper atmosphere of Mars in order to discover the climates and relations with the sun. MAVEN is scheduled to launch in 2013.
LASP began in 1948 to progress in space exploration. It was referred to as the Upper Atmosphere Lab (UAL). The initial purpose of UAL was to develop a durable platform for the first rocket launches in order to document flights. By 1965 UAL was a well established research laboratory, earning itself a new building on campus and the name LASP.
During the last 40 years, LASP has sought to gain a clearer perspective of solar activity through laboratory experiments and theory-based system approaches that involve students.
“One thing that makes a tremendous difference is our involvement of students in all of our programs. Students participate in designing and building instruments, in operating spacecraft and in doing analysis of the returned science data,” Jakosky said.
LASP has completed over 50 programs and missions including the Crystal-Face that measured cloud properties in order to gain a better understanding of the Earth’s atmosphere. LASP made progress in studying processes related to ozone depletion during the Solar Mesosphere Explorer mission and will launch the Kelper mission in March of 2009 to scour the galaxy for Earth-sized or smaller planets. LASP is the only organization other than NASA that has sent instruments to all eight planets in the solar system and to Pluto.
“Our high level of ability - and especially our people - make us the leading university in the country in these areas, and put us into a select group internationally,” Jakosky said.
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