Getting a spacecraft into orbit around Mercury has created some astronomical problems for designers. Expense, for one. Complexity, for another. And finally, risk -- the region around the Sun is so hostile that it threatens the craft, its instrumentation and, consequently, the entire exploratory mission. So the challenge for scientists has been, among other things, to develop new designs and relatively new technologies to create instruments that are extremely lightweight yet powerful enough to extract vast amounts of information and can withstand the harshest of environments.
The College of Engineering’s Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences department (AOSS) solved an important part of that problem when it developed the Fast-Imaging Plasma Spectrometer (FIPS) -- an easier, less expensive and less risky way to collect data in the extremely hostile neighborhood close to the Sun. (Continued...)