GLASTcasts: Whet your appetite for tomorrow's launch
After several delays, it looks like the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope will finally launch tomorrow morning between 8:45 and 10:45 a.m. PDT. You can watch the launch on NASA TV via streaming video; pre-launch coverage starts at 6:45 a.m. It's a time of elation and high anxiety for hundreds of people who have worked on the spacecraft, which will explore the last remaining gap in the spectrum of light reaching us from space--the highest-energy rays created by the most violent processes we know about, from supermassive black holes to pulsars.
The mission is a joint project of NASA and the Department of Energy, and Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, a DOE lab operated by Stanford University, was in charge of developing its main instrument, the Large Area Telescope. Housed in a cube 1.8 meters on a side--the combined width of 15 CD cases--it's essentially a particle detector whose 880,000 silicon strips lie in wait to capture high-energy gamma rays. Laboratories around the world crafted parts of the telescope and shipped them for assembly at SLAC, which will also process the data from the telescope.