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Session 4 - Space Mission Status.
Display session, Monday, January 15
North Banquet Hall, Convention Center
FIRST (Far-Infrared and Submillimeter Space Telescope), an ESA mission, is a high sensitivity submillimeter spectroscopy and continuum satellite, approved as a ``Horizon 2000'' Cornerstone mission for launch in 2005/6. It has an ESA assigned budget of 400 MAU (1984 European accounting units; 1 MAU is slightly more than $1M.) The primary goals of the mission are the detection and study of distant and possibly primordial galaxies (1 < z < 5), and the detection and study of stars forming in the local interstellar medium.
The NASA goal is to contribute to the technical and scientific aspects of the program, to provide a significantly enhanced international mission, through the use of advanced US technology, and also result in core program and open time science opportunites to US astronomers. NASA would be a partner in FIRST with ESA, at a level still to be determined. Our own project in this field, SMIM, is similar to FIRST, and although planned some time ago, could not be constructed on a competitive timescale, so the US submillimeter community has decided to try to join the European project.
The FIRST mission, as approved, is a 3-m diameter, radiatively cooled (165K) telescope for high-throughput spectroscopy and photometry in the submillimeter and far-infrared range (85-900 \mum, 3.5-0.33 THz). Best angular resolution is about 7''. The payload consists of a cryogenic focal plane system with: superconducting tunnel junction (SIS) heterodyne detectors providing near quantum-noise performance for high spectral resolution (R \geq 10^4) in the 500-1200 GHz range; imaging photoconductor arrays for photometry (R \sim 3) or medium resolution spectroscopy (R \sim 10^4) in the 85-210\mum band; and bolometer arrays for spectroscopy in the 200-300 \mum band and photometry in the 200-900 \mum band. The nominal mission lifetime is 2 years, but could be extended to six years depending on the final cryogenic technology employed.
Program listing for Monday