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Mission Status Report #90      Star Date: September 16, 2005

FUSE Recovery: How are We Doing?

Caption: The FUSE satellite floats in front of an infrared image of the Carina Nebula, a region of intense star formation, taken with the Spitzer Space Telescope. Many hot stars within this nebula, including the enigmatic Eta Carina itself, have been the subject of intense study with FUSE observations. Joint observations at several wavelengths using facilities from ground-based telescopes to NASA space telescopes are needed to fully understand complex processes such as star formation. (Graphic courtesy NASA and Lauren Fowler, the JHU FUSE project.)

(Click image above to see larger version.)

It has been a very busy time on the FUSE project over the last month, on several fronts. We continue to develop, test, and improve our operations with a single reaction wheel, including the software tools on the ground that help us schedule observations safely. We have also concluded the preparations for loading the "next generation" control software to FUSE, and that "brain transplant" is underway at this time. (All goes well as of this writing.) And finally, today is the FUSE Cycle 7 proposal deadline, where astronomers from around the globe submit requests to NASA for new observations over the coming year. Without going into detail, it looks like another strong response from the community of astronomers who use FUSE observations to perform their science.

When things get as busy as they've been, we sometimes lose track of the need to communicate to our community about our progress. We have had numerous contacts, especially during the preparation period for Cycle 7 proposals asking how FUSE is doing.

I am happy to report continued, steady progress as we work to return the FUSE satellite to normal operations. We have spent the lion's share of the last two months operating on a timeline (or Mission Planning Schedule), learning as we go. The observations we have performed are conservative in the sense that they are in parts of the sky where we have demonstrated reasonable stability. When proposed science targets are in the available stable region, we observe them. When they are not, we define sky background regions and observe those. During the month of August 2005, over 220 ks of successful science data was gathered and processed, even though we are officially still in a development and testing mode. That's not bad!

But the really good news is that the vector is pointing upwards! We not only SEE ways to make things better, but we KNOW HOW to make things better. We've spent too much time in safe mode, but I can honestly say we have learned something and implemented improvements every time a problem has occurred. Things are getting better all the time, but it takes time to assess, implement, and improve the system. I have to remind myself from time to time that what we are doing is unprecedented. No one has ever done 3-axis stabilized pointing at the arcseond level with a single reaction wheel. We're doing it!

A key element, however, as we move downstream, will be getting a pool of potential targets that is weighted towards the part of the sky we can observe with relative ease. Cycle 6 and earlier targets were selected assuming the "old FUSE," with two operational reaction wheels. Operations with only one wheel apparently restricts our sky coverage, but with enough science targets to work with, FUSE can still crank out the data. That's what Cycle 7 is all about. Good luck to all those who proposed.

As usual, I offer continued thanks to all of the FUSE Sciences Operations team, including our partners on the Mission Operations Team from Honeywell Technology Solutions, Inc., and our colleagues at Orbital Sciences Corporation, as well as the JHU operations staff, for their efforts so far, and for their ongoing efforts as we improve the FUSE control system. I wish I could adequately describe to you the tremendous energy, ingenuity, and creativity, and dedication of these people! (Maybe some day I'll write a book.)

Reported by: Bill Blair, FUSE Chief of Observatory Operations

Last Update: September 16, 2005

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