Understanding the Universe
Discoveries in astronomy and physics have taken scientists on an amazing journey through time, from distant galaxies and an expanding universe to black holes, dark energy and supernovae. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center has made significant contributions to our knowledge of the universe through work on a number of specialized NASA space telescope missions, including the design and development of the Hubble Space Telescope mirrors and development of critical instrumentation carried by the Compton Gamma-ray Observatory.
Today, the Marshall Center provides management and scientific expertise to the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the world's most powerful X-ray telescope. Launched in 1999, Chandra continues its mission of discovery in its second decade of operation, helping scientists determine the nature of celestial objects and explore the beginnings of the universe. Marshall also supports development of NASA's next-generation premier space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope, conducting cryogenic optical testing of the primary mirror segments in Marshall's world-class X-ray & Cryogenic Facility.
In 2008, NASA launched the Gamma-ray Large Area Telescope, later renamed Fermi to honor Italian physicist Enrico Fermi. It is designed to explore the most extreme environments of the universe where short, tremendous explosions called gamma-ray bursts occur. Aboard the telescope is the Marshall-developed and managed Gamma-ray Burst Monitor or GBM, an instrument designed to monitor gamma-ray bursts at lower energies.
In addition to Marshall's work on NASA's great observatories, our space scientists are involved in balloon experiments measuring X-ray emissions, discovering unexpected features in the cosmic ray spectrum and closely examining the properties of individual cosmic and lunar dust grains all in an effort to improve man's understanding of the universe.