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Let The (X-Ray) Light Shine In !!!!

August 12, 1999 ::

Chandra X-ray Observatory & the Electromagnetic Spectrum
The Chandra X-ray Observatory & the electromagnetic spectrum
Illustration: CXC
At 2:00 p.m. EDT today the Chandra X-ray Observatory received a command from the Chandra Control Center in Cambridge, MA, 84,000 miles away. A pyrotechnic charge equivalent to an M-80 firecracker exploded, sending a chisel through a bolt and a powerful spring swung open the 120-pound 9-foot diameter door protecting the delicate mirrors of the observatory. Chandra wobbled slightly, then settled down. The expectant Chandra team cheered and congratulated one another. Cosmic X-rays could shine onto the mirrors for the first time.

"We still have a ways to go," emphasized Chandra program manager Fred Wojtalik of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, "but we couldn't be happier with the way this mission has gone so far."

Chandra X-ray Observatory Sketch
A sketch of the Chandra X-ray Observatory & its Sunshade Door.
Illustration: CXC/NGST
Indeed, one of the group was heard to remark, "It went so well that Chandra himself would have been pleased."

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the legendary astrophysicist for whom the observatory was named, was noted for his meticulous and thorough work. A similar spirit has been evident at the Chandra Center in the weeks since the July 23 launch as scientists and engineers have carefully adjusted Chandra's orbit and prepared it for its path-breaking mission. These preparations will continue over the next few weeks as the control team performs engineering studies to check out the pointing and focusing capabilities of the telescope.

"It is a great day for X-ray astronomy,"
- Dan Schwartz, a 15 year veteran of the program and Chandra science operations manager from Harvard-Smithsonian
NASA plans to unveil the first significant image from Chandra and report on the observatory's status at a press conference later this month. In the meantime, smiles, handshakes, and hugs were the order of the day at the Chandra Center as it became clear that a dream of two decades had become a reality. The flight operators had to call for quiet several times, in sharp contrast to the intense, hushed mood that had pervaded the Center during the previous weeks.

"It is a great day for X-ray astronomy," said Dan Schwartz, a 15 year veteran of the program and Chandra science operations manager from Harvard-Smithsonian, with a broad smile.

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