Global involvement in Europe's Cluster Mission
26 July 2000The Cluster mission to explore the magnetosphere has a genuineinternational flavour, in more ways than one.
Not only are hundreds of scientists from around the world eagerly awaiting the unique data from the Cluster quartet, but in this age of the Internet and global communication, millions of people around the world are able to follow the progress of this exciting mission.
224 scientists have been accepted as Principal Investigators and Co-Investigators for the 11 experiments to be conducted by Cluster. Although half of these are based in European countries, and more than one quarter are from the United States, there are also representatives from far-flung countries such as India, Japan and China.
Cluster has always had particularly close links with the United States. Back in the 1980's, Cluster and the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft were designated as the first Cornerstone in ESA's Horizon 2000 long term scientific programme. Although the Cluster launch has been delayed by four years, this international Solar-Terrestrial Science Programme is still being carried out as a cooperative project between ESA and NASA.
This means that NASA has provided funding for the U.S. scientific hardware, and, during the early phase of the Cluster mission, it is giving operations support through its Deep Space Network (DSN) antenna at Canberra, Australia. The DSN will also be used to transmit results from the Wideband data (WBD) experiment to the University of Iowa, home of the Principal Investigator for the WBD experiment.
While the scientists patiently wait for the second launch that will complete the Cluster quartet, space-watching members of the public around the world are following the mission via the Internet.
One example is Yohan Carlyle Denzil Ferreira, a student from Sri Lanka, who is monitoring Cluster events from his far-away homeland.
Yohan is one of many who have contacted the Cluster project at the European Space Technology and Research Centre (ESTEC) in The Netherlands to request further information on the pioneering mission to study the Sun-Earth interaction.
"Although I am still 19 years old," said Yohan, "I am working as a volunteer Smart Filter (SF) for the NASA Quest Q&A Project (http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/).
"I am one of 20 SFs around the world and we reply and process questions, mainly from students, reply to them with answers from our archives or route original questions to experts to answer. In short, we act as "buffers" between experts and questioners so that we can save the experts valuable time - they volunteer by only forwarding original questions to them. So, it helps a LOT to keep updated about what's happening regarding space missions etc.
"I would like to wish you and your ENTIRE team all the Very Best of Luck for the 2nd launch on the 9th of August 2000," he concluded.
In his reply, Alberto Gianolio, Cluster II Deputy Project Manager, said, "It has indeed been a great satisfaction and a matter of pride for all the Cluster team to see the first two babies going up so smoothly this time. We are all looking forward to the second launch on 9 August and I am glad to hear that you, too, will be following it with us."
The second Cluster launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is currently scheduled for 13:13:35 CEST on 9 August.