Mission Observation Proposal

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Part I: Mission/Observation Vision Statement

For this portion of your Final Project you will come up with a simple statement that describes what you want to learn/research and the mission or observations you are proposing. For this project we want to focus on objects outside of our own solar system, which can be within our Milky Way, or objects far away like distant galaxies, black holes, quasars, etc. (NOTE: you may not research extrasolar planets.) For your proposal, you will need to estimate the cost and time associated with your mission or observations, and also take into account the technology we currently have or are currently working on. Note that some missions can span decades or cost millions of dollars. Make sure to research a few real-life missions to get a feel for what cost were and how long it took to complete the mission.

What are you interested in exploring or researching that could advance our knowledge of stars, galaxies, black holes, etc.? NOTE: your mission will need to be on observation mission conducted from Earth. You will not be traveling to any of the objects beyond our Solar System. This could be anything, such as:

  • Making observations of special types of galaxies or very distant objects like quasars using one of our many powerful telescopes.
  • Based on what you want to study, will there need to be a spacecraft built that will contain a powerful telescope to look out into space? What kind of orbit will it have?
  • In conducting observations, are you going to be using an existing telescope or propose that a new one to be built (ground-based or in space)?
  • What part of the spectrum are you going to be observing in?  If it is a new telescope, where would it be built, or will it be in orbit?

Based on the above, write a well thought vision statement. This should consist of a short paragraph, not more than 5 sentences, that outlines your strategic plan, taking into account:

  • Talk about the timeframe needed (give a length and an approximate date of when your mission will begin)
  • Use present tense
  • Use clear, concise language
  • It is helpful to show your passion and emotion for the project
  • Paint a mental picture for your audience
  • Dream big, don’t worry about the cost, don’t worry about the practicality for now, what initially may look impossible, it could be solved later with advancing technology (Note that you wouldn’t be sending a craft outside of our Solar System, but you could certainly build a new space telescope.)
  • How will you gather your information: e.g. from a spacecraft or ground-based telescope
  • What is/are the primary scientific goals
  • How will the mission help human-kind?

An example from the WMAP mission could have been something like: “The Big Bang theory of the universe allows plenty of room for variations in the details (parameters) of the actual structure and behavior of our universe. These "free parameters" are important, but must be determined by observations, not theory. The parameters effect very basic aspects of our universe:

  • Will the universe expand forever, or will it collapse?
  • Is the universe dominated by exotic dark matter?
  • What is the shape of the universe?
  • How and when did the first galaxies form?
  • Is the expansion of the universe accelerating rather than decelerating?
  • And more...

Since the CMB radiation was emitted so long ago (and far away), it carries a great deal of information about the properties of our universe which can be measured in no other way. This early radiation was effected everywhere by the physics of matter within the bounds set by the parameters. So we have a large statistical sample of microwave radiation (across the whole sky) to help us determine these parameters. The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) will be able to measure the CMB patterns of radiation with tremendous accuracy and it will be able to accurately determine most of the basic parameters of cosmology.”

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