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JS Princeton
2003-Feb-12, 10:45 PM
Here is the NASA press release on the renaming of MAP:


Nancy Neal
Headquarters, Washington February 11, 2003
(Phone: 202-358-2369)

RELEASE: 03-056

NASA NAMES SATELLITE IN HONOR OF PIONEER RESEARCHER

NASA renamed an orbiting satellite, called the
Microwave Anisotropy Probe, in honor of David T. Wilkinson,
a pioneer in physics and cosmology, who died in September
2002.

The re-christened Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe
(WMAP), launched in June 2001, observes the oldest light in
the universe, called the cosmic microwave background (CMB).
Patterns imprinted in this light, approximately 400,000
years after the big bang, reveal details about the age of
the universe, the era of first starlight, and other key
properties.

Wilkinson, a professor at Princeton University, N.J., was
instrumental in defining CMB research from the days of its
discovery in 1964 to his work as the WMAP Instrument
Scientist, 38 years later. Both WMAP and its predecessor,
the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), owe their existence
in no small part to Wilkinson, whose decades' long research,
enthusiasm, and tireless efforts played a major role in
bringing these missions to life.

"Dave was a man of great integrity, an outstanding
scientist, and a wonderful colleague," said Dr. Charles L.
Bennett, WMAP Principal Investigator from the NASA Goddard
Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "He loved to do
science and he loved to teach science. As a teacher he was
inspiring. As a scientist he set high standards and served
as the conscience of the field," he said.

WMAP builds on the COBE legacy by measuring the tiny
temperature fluctuations in the CMB with much higher
resolution, sensitivity, and accuracy. The mission aims at
understanding the most fundamental aspects of the universe
that have given rise to the structure of galaxies observed
on the largest scales.

In 1963, Wilkinson set out on a quest to find the predicted
cosmic microwave background afterglow radiation from the big
bang. As an assistant professor at Princeton in the early
1960s, Wilkinson and a colleague confirmed the 1964
discovery of the CMB by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson of
the Bell Telephone Laboratories. Wilkinson continued on to
make increasingly more impressive measurements that put the
big bang theory and ideas about the evolution of the
universe on solid ground.

Wilkinson served the Physics Department Chairman from
1987 to 1990. He loved to teach and was awarded the
Princeton President's Award for Distinguished Teaching.
Wilkinson, who dedicated his professional life to answering
the most profound questions of our Universe, died on
September 5, 2002, at the age of 67 after a long struggle
with cancer.