Click here for a high resolution image of the rocket.
Photo courtesy of Chris Savinelli, NASA
A NASA spacecraft that was launched Wednesday, April 25, aboard a Pegasus rocket wore a Virginia Tech ribbon logo in memory of the students and faculty members killed last week.
The Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) spacecraft is dedicated to a two-year mission to study noctilucent clouds, which are clouds that shine brightly at night and are typically concentrated around the poles. First observed in 1885, the polar clouds form about 50 miles above Earth’s surface and are growing increasingly brighter. The mission’s primary goal is to explain why the clouds form and to discover what is causing them to appear more frequently and at lower latitudes.
The project has many Virginia Tech connections. Principal investigator of the mission is James M. Russell, III, a professor at Hampton University and a graduate of Virginia Tech’s electrical and computer engineering (ECE) department. Scott Bailey, an assistant professor of ECE at Virginia Tech serves as deputy principal investigator, and several engineers involved in the mission are Virginia Tech alumni.
“We thank Jim Russell, NASA and Orbital Sciences Corporation for this memorial,” Bailey said. “Orbital employees actually did the painting, which is more than a little interesting, when you consider they were painting onto what was essentially a ready-to-launch missile.”
For more information on the AIM mission, including photos of the spacecraft and of noctilucent clouds, please visit www.nasa.gov/aim.