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(Left Photo) From left: Dan Marrone, professor in the Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory; Jeff Kingsley, associate director for Steward Observatory; University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins; Carol Stewart, vice president for Tech Parks Arizona; Elizabeth "Betsy" Cantwell, UArizona senior vice president for research and innovation; and Kevin Illige, project manager for Concord General Contracting. (Right Photo) Exhibit featuring the far-infrared telescope for GUSTO, or Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory. (Chris Richards/University of Arizona)

Grand opening of new Mission Integration Lab for balloon-borne astronomy

The University of Arizona on Monday celebrated the opening of the Mission Integration Lab, a new research building in the UA Tech Park at The Bridges that will accommodate testing and preparation for balloon-borne astronomy missions.

Balloon-borne astronomy fills an important niche between ground-based observatories and space telescopes, allowing for the deployment of telescopes and other instruments to altitudes where they experience less interference from Earth's atmosphere. Modern balloon-borne observatories offer space-like views of the universe at a fraction of the time and cost of a full space mission.

The Mission Integration Lab provides a tall, hangar-like space, known as a "high bay," which allows researchers to prepare and test balloon payloads and other space payloads before their flights.

The Monday event featured remarks from University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins; Elizabeth "Betsy" Cantwell, UArizona senior vice president for research and innovation; and Carol Stewart, vice president for Tech Parks Arizona.

Equipment was on display from two balloon-borne missions:

  • The Terahertz Intensity Mapper, a NASA-funded balloon mission designed to create a giant map of galaxies from over 5 billion years of cosmic history. The mission relies on an imaging spectrometer capable of detecting extremely faint galaxies in the "cosmic afternoon," the time when star formation in the universe was slowing down from its peak 10 billion years ago.
  • GUSTO, short for Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory, a NASA-funded mission to carry an infrared telescope to study the lifecycle of stars in the interstellar medium.
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