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For Release: December 21, 1998
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NASA Selects New Name And Sets New Launch Date
For Advanced Space X-Ray Telescope
NASA today set a new launch date for the Advanced
X-ray Astrophysics Facility, and announced that it will be renamed
the Chandra X-ray Observatory in honor of the late Indian-American
Nobel Laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.
The Chandra X-ray Observatory will be shipped
to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on or before January 28
and launched no earlier than April 8, 1999. The launch date will
be subject to the actual shipping date and the results of a mid-February
independent review of the progress towards preparing the operations
center in Cambridge, Mass., for launch.
Chandra will be carried to space aboard the
Space Shuttle Columbia on mission STS-93, commanded by astronaut
Eileen Collins. The shipment of the spacecraft was delayed in
mid-October so the prime contractor, TRW Space and Electronics
Group, Redondo Beach, Calif., could complete testing on flight
"Chandra," a shortened version of
Chandrasekhar's name, which he preferred among friends and colleagues,
was chosen in a contest to rename the X-ray telescope. "Chandra"
also means "Moon" or "luminous" in Sanskrit.
The winners are a high school student in Laclede, Idaho, and a
teacher in Camarillo, Calif.
"Chandrasekhar made fundamental contributions to the theory of black holes and other phenomena that the Chandra X-ray Observatory will study. His life and work exemplify the excellence that we can hope to achieve with this great observatory," said NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin.
"Chandra probably thought longer and deeper
about our universe than anyone since Einstein," said Martin
Rees, Great Britain's Astronomer Royal.
Chandrasekhar, widely regarded as one of the
foremost astrophysicists of the 20th century, won the Nobel Prize
in 1983 for his theoretical studies of physical processes important
to the structure and evolution of stars. He and his wife emigrated
from India to the U.S. in 1935. He served on the faculty of the
University of Chicago until his death in 1995.
The Chandra X-ray Observatory will help astronomers
world-wide better understand the structure and evolution of the
universe by studying powerful sources of x-rays such as exploding
stars, matter falling into black holes and other exotic celestial
objects. X-ray astronomy can only be done from space because Earth's
atmosphere blocks x-rays from reaching the surface. Chandra will
provide images that are fifty times more detailed than previous
x-ray missions. At more than 45 feet in length and weighing more
than five tons, it will be one of the largest objects ever placed
in Earth orbit by the Space Shuttle.
Tyrel Johnson, a student at Priest River Lamanna
High School in Priest River, Idaho, and Jatila van der Veen, a
physics and astronomy teacher at Adolfo Camarillo High School,
in Camarillo, Calif., submitted the winning name and essays. They
will receive a trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to
view the launch of the Chandra X-ray Observatory, a prize donated
by TRW. In all, 59 people submitted the name "Chandra."
Altogether, the contest drew more than 6,000 entries from all
50 states and 61 countries. The seven members of the selection
committee included a top aerospace executive, journalists, scientists
and a university professor.
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra X-ray Observatory program for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) controls science and flight operations of the observatory for NASA from Cambridge, Mass.
Note to Editors / News Directors: Interviews, photos and video supporting this release are available to media representatives by contacting Dave Drachlis of the Marshall Media Relations Office at (256) 544-0034. For an electronic version of this release, digital images or more information, visit Marshall's News Center on the Web at:
For information about S. Chandrasekhar, or comments from his Chicago colleagues, including those who will use the Chandra X-ray Observatory, contact Steve Koppes, University of Chicago, 773/702-8366, or via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org