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Gravitational and Relativistic Physics (GRP)

    PAST: Gravity Probe A Seperator Dot Viking Seperator Dot Lunar Laser Ranging Seperator Dot LAGEOS I & II
PRESENT:

Ongoing Research

    FUTURE: Gravity Probe B Seperator Dot AMS Seperator Dot STEP Seperator Dot LISA Seperator Dot SUMO

Launch: 2010
Mission Duration: Several years

 

LISA concept

Gravitational waves are one of the fundamental building blocks of our developing picture of the universe. Although there is strong evidence for the existence of gravitational waves, they have not yet been directly detected.

Gravitational waves are thought to be similar to light waves in that they carry energy and momentum that can be detected by a suitable instrument. Light carries information about the structure of the matter that generated it, and scientists think that gravitational waves will too.

It is believed that gravitational waves behave something like ripples in the curvature of space-time and are generated by the motion of massive particles. These waves cause a varying strain of space-time, which result in changes in the distance between points. If scientists can measure the changes that take place between fixed points, more can learned about where these wave come from and what caused them.

The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna - LISA will attempt to detect gravitational waves. The primary objective of the LISA mission is to observe gravitational waves from distant stars. Of special interest are the gravitational waves generated near the massive black holes found in the centers of many galaxies.

This mission consists of three spacecraft flying 5 million kilometers apart in the formation of an equilateral triangle. The triangle formation follows along behind the Earth, in the same orbit, circling the sun.

The three LISA spacecraft flying in formation will act as a giant interferometer, measuring the distortion of space caused by passing gravitational waves. Each spacecraft will contain two free-floating masses. Each mass is shielded from distorting movements caused by the sun, or other factors, by its housing. Lasers in each spacecraft will be used to measure with great precision the changes caused by passing gravitational waves in the distance between the three spacecraft.

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