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Oct. 25, 2006Erica HuppHeadquarters, Washington202-358-1237Rani Chohan/Lynn ChandlerGoddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.301-286-2483/2806RELEASE: 06-340NASA'S FIRST 3-D SOLAR IMAGING MISSION SOARS INTO SPACENASA's twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatories mission, knownas STEREO, successfully launched Wednesday at 8:52 p.m. EDT from CapeCanaveral Air Force Station, Fla.STEREO's nearly identical twin, golf cart-sized spacecraft will makeobservations to help researchers construct the first-everthree-dimensional views of the sun. The images will show the star'sstormy environment and its effects on the inner solar system, vitaldata for understanding how the sun creates space weather."The stunning solar views the two observatories will send back toEarth will help scientists get a better understanding of the sun andits activity than we've ever been able to obtain from the ground orany of our other missions," said Nick Chrissotimos, STEREO projectmanager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.The two observatories were launched on a Delta II rocket in a stackedconfiguration and separated from the launch vehicle approximately 25minutes after lift-off. After receiving the first signal from thespacecraft approximately 63 minutes after launch, mission controlpersonnel at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory(APL), Laurel, Md., confirmed each observatory's solar arrayssuccessfully deployed and were providing power. NASA's Deep SpaceNetwork antennas in Canberra, Australia received the initial radiosignals.During the next two weeks, mission managers at APL will ensure allsystems are properly working. For the next three months, theobservatories will fly from a point close to Earth to one thatextends just beyond the moon's orbit.After about two months, STEREO's orbits will be synchronized toencounter the moon. The "A" observatory will use the moon's gravityto redirect it to an orbit "ahead" of Earth. The "B" observatory willencounter the moon again for a second swing-by about one month laterto redirect its position "behind" Earth. STEREO is the first NASAmission to use separate lunar swing-bys to place two observatoriesinto vastly different orbits around the sun.Just as the slight offset between human eyes provides depthperception, this placement will allow the STEREO observatories toobtain 3-D images of the sun. The arrangement also allows the twospacecraft to take local particle and magnetic field measurements ofthe solar wind as it flows by.During the observatories' two-year mission, they will explore theorigin, evolution and interplanetary consequences of coronal massejections, some of the most violent explosions in our solar system.These billion-ton eruptions can produce spectacular aurora, disruptsatellites, radio communications and Earth's power systems. Energeticparticles associated with these solar eruptions permeate the entiresolar system and can be hazardous to spacecraft and astronauts.Better prediction of solar eruptions provides more warning time forsatellite and power grid operators to put their assets into a safemode to weather the storm. A better understanding of the nature ofthese events will help engineers build better and more resilientsystems."We're becoming more and more reliant on space technologies in oureveryday lives and are hatching ambitious plans to explore our outerspace surroundings," said Michael Kaiser, STEREO Project Scientist atGoddard. "But nature has a mind of its own and STEREO is going tohelp us figure out how to avoid those surprises the sun tends tothrow at us and our best-laid plans."For more information about STEREO, visit:http://www.nasa.gov/stereoGoddard manages the STEREO mission. The APL designed and built thespacecraft. The laboratory will maintain command and control of theobservatories throughout the mission, while NASA tracks and receivesthe data, determines the orbit of the satellites, and coordinates thescience results. Each observatory has 16 instruments, includingimaging telescopes and equipment to measure solar wind particles andto perform radio astronomy.The STEREO mission includes significant international cooperation withEuropean partners in instrument development, data sharing andanalysis.-end-