Sen. Barbara Mikulski paid a visit to the Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy on March 29, in what she jokingly referred to as an attempt to earn her "Girl Scout badge" in astronomy.
In reality, Mikulski had come to the Homewood campus to meet with university and NASA officials to get a firsthand look at the FUSE satellite operations center, located on the first floor of Bloomberg.
FUSE, which stands for Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer, is part of NASA's Origins Program and is intended to help scientists answer such primordial questions as what the conditions were like moments after the Big Bang and how galaxies form. The project is the first large-scale space mission to be developed and operated entirely by an academic department of a university.
Mikulski, who is on the Senate appropriations committee that funds NASA, has been a strong advocate of the university's involvement in FUSE and of the overall aerospace industry in Maryland, according to Dennis McCarthy, FUSE project manager.
"It's a big deal to her. She really believes in the space program," McCarthy said.
Mikulski was joined on her tour by Warren Moos, principal investigator of the FUSE mission; President William R. Brody; Steven Knapp, provost and vice president for academic affairs; Herbert Kessler, dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences; Ilene Busch-Vishniac, dean of the Whiting School of Engineering; Theodore Poehler, vice provost for research; Gary Ostrander, associate dean for research; Paul Feldman, chair of Physics and Astronomy; Holland Ford, director of the Center for Astrophysical Sciences; Stamatios Krimigis, head of the Space Department Office at APL; and various NASA officials.
At the end of the tour Brody presented Mikulski with a baseball cap with the FUSE logo and thanked her for the support she has shown the project.
"People don't recognize the tremendous impact that you have on both Hopkins' and Maryland's economic development," Brody said to those in attendance. "Projects like these wouldn't take place if you weren't there fighting to do the right thing, and I think this is the right thing for all of us."
Mikulski said she was "proud of Hopkins' role in the project.
"I'm very impressed with the project itself and the science that it will provide in terms of the overall understanding of the origins of the universe," Mikulski said, adding that she was also impressed with the university's ability to produce the satellite at one-third of its original cost.
"They really used the best of what is available here at Hopkins," she said.
The FUSE satellite will be launched on its scheduled three-year mission on May 20.