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Launch Services Webcast: Swift Science and Spacecraft Overview
Tim Gehringer's Presentation

Host Rex Englehardt: Nearly 40 years after the first sighting of a gamma-ray burst, NASA is on the verge of beginning the modern era of gamma-ray burst research. Swift, an exciting mission to capture these explosive events, is about to liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center.

Hello and welcome to NASA's prelaunch webcast coverage of the Swift mission. I'm your host, Rex Engelhardt. Thanks for joining us.

Over the next two days, you are going to learn about the innovative Swift spacecraft and its fast-paced mission to catch one of the most elusive events in the universe. You'll be hearing from scientists and engineers deeply involved with the project, and discover just what gamma-ray bursts are and how Swift will match their speed to study them.

Starting us off is Swift deputy project manager Tim Gehringer to fill us in on the Swift mission and what makes it so spectacular.

Tim Gehringer: My name is Tim Gehringer and I am the Swift deputy project manager.

What makes Swift unique is that it is a composite of three instruments that were joined together that provide a multi-wavelength spectrum capability of studying gamma-ray bursts.

Swift has a unique capability of being able to transmit to the ground coordinates of detected bursts through the TDRSS network, and actually from TDRSS to the world to be able to train ground telescopes onto the gamma-ray bursts that Swift has detected. Swift is able to slew quickly because of unique software that we've designed into the spacecraft and six reaction wheels that we've designed into the spacecraft that allows us to slew quickly.

Swift, from the very beginning had large international contributions from the Italian government and also from the U.K. government. The Italians have contributed the mirrors for the X-ray telescope as well as the ground station in Malindi, Kenya. The United Kingdom supplied the UVOT instrument, as well as a large portion of the X-ray telescope on Swift.

Swift is going to provide a basic foundation for the study of gamma-ray bursts that’s frankly unprecedented, never been done before. It's going to contribute in a statistical way. We're going to be able to look at gamma-ray bursts like we've never done before. Gamma-ray bursts are the most extreme explosions, frankly, the universe sees, and Swift is going to study those in a very unique way, and it's going to be delving into the study of extreme science

The thing about studying things that we don't know about: Who knows where we'll go? Who knows where it'll take us? We can make know, the greatest discoveries in the world have been accidents. The greatest discoveries in the world have been things that nobody really cared about. And I see Swift as contributing to that legacy of scientific knowledge.