For nearly three decades, scientists have known that Earth is surrounded by the massive Van Allen radiation belts, which wreak havoc on spacecraft and satellite communications but also play a role in generating spectacularly beautiful auroras. Now, as one of only two universities selected by NASA's new University-class Explorers (UNEX) program, the University of Minnesota will send a spacecraft into the heart of the Van Allen belts to study the forces at work there. The researchers hope that by better understanding these forces--which also operate in virtually every other corner of the universe--they will gain a deeper understanding of how electrical and magnetic forces shape the universe and come closer to predicting hazards to communications--and astronauts. Launch is planned for mid-2001 aboard an Air Force Titan IV rocket.
The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Minnesota. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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