GLAST lifts off into space  (Source: UPI/NASA)
NASA launches new space telescope that will help international researchers study gamma rays

The NASA space telescope GLAST today successfully launched into space aboard a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  Flight engineers in Florida were concerned over possible thunderstorms and clouds in the area, but the clouds held off long enough for the launch.  

The GLAST (Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope), which endured multiple delays before launch, will help scientists measure energy in gamma rays and will take high-resolution images.  NASA also expects GLAST to help study dark matter, a phenomenon that scientists believe makes up 25 percent of mass in Earth's universe.  In addition, it will search for thousands of gamma-ray sources found in numerous galaxies.

"GLAST will give us a spectacular high-energy gamma-ray vision," said David Thompson, GLAST deputy project scientist.  "The universe looks remarkably different outside the narrow range of colors in the spectrum that we can see with our eyes."

The U.S. Department of Energy, with assistance from researchers in the U.S., Japan, Sweden, Italy, Germany and France contributed to the project.

"After a 60-day checkout and initial calibration period, we'll begin science operations," said a GLAST project scientist. "GLAST soon will be telling scientists about many new objects to study, and this information will be available on the Internet for the world to see."

The $690 million telescope was originally scheduled to launch on May 16, but was delayed more than once while engineers finished constructing the telescope and eradicated issues with the Delta II rocket.

GLAST will orbit 350 miles above the Earth's surface, at 25.6 degrees to the equator.  Engineers expect the satellite to be functional for at least 10 years.

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