WMAP is the Popular Science Readers Choice Innovation of the Year for 2001, and the only one of the top five choices not for sale!! WMAP was launched on at 19:46:46 on 30 June 2001 GMT, during the first second of the launch window, and reached its observing station at L2 on schedule 94 days later, as shown in the picture (well, drawing).
Even the Economist is curious about WMAP!
The spacecraft and instrument have performed admirably since then, and we have observed the entire sky at five microwave frequencies. From these maps, which are dominated by emission from the cosmic microwave background, we expect to understand the geometry and contents of the early universe.
MAP's orbit is 2 million km from the earth, well past the orbit of the moon. From this vantage point at the second Earth-Sun Lagrange point, L2, neither the moon nor the earth nor the sun ever comes in the way of MAP's view of the sky. It is a perfect spot for a telescope, and MAP is the first spacecraft to locate at L2. We took photos of MAP when it was half way to L2 using the Canada-France_Hawaii Telescope, one of the best imaging telescopes on earth.
MAP was launched from Cape Canaveral and prepared for launch in the adjacent Kennedy Space Center. KSC and Cape Canaveral are in a wildlife preserve and there were lots of animals there I do not usually get to see close up in Vancouver. This includes especially these alligators.
Please see our excellent public web page for explanations of the goals and status of the experiment.