How was the IMAGE Project conceived?

In 1995, NASA issued a call for proposals to the astronomy and space science community as part of its MIDEX program. A team of scientists led by Dr. James Burch of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas responded to this proposal by jointly submitting a detailed proposal, including timetable for design, fabrication and post-launch activities, and a detailed budget. Copies of this proposal were then delivered to NASA on June 27, 1995 and then sent out for review by a panel of representatives from the scientific and technical community.

The spacecraft was designed by the team of participating scientists and engineers to carry out a set of specific measurements which are needed to monitor the interaction between the Earth's magnetosphere and plasma environment, and the solar wind. Prior to the advent of IMAGE, these measurements were obtained from several different satellites and could only be combined to give a crude picture of what was going on in space around the Earth. The data was sparse, and had to be extensively processed to allow scientists to understand what changes were taking place, and then only over time intervals of days or weeks. With IMAGE, an array of simultaneous observations will be carried out, and scientists will in many instances be able to create almost literally, minute-by-minute photographs of the state of the plasma cloud surrounding the Earth, and how it is affected by eruptions of gas and energy from the Sun.


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