Rocket launch fulfills Tennessee Valley man’s dreams

Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 8:33 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - We have some exciting space news! A rocket launch is scheduled for midnight.

The payload on board the rocket will help detect x-rays from black holes and spinning neutron stars. Eventually, the knowledge gained, will help us here on Earth.

A science experiment from 50 years ago at Marshall Space Flight Center, has led to where we are today. In a couple of hours, there’s going to be a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral Florida.

Sitting atop the Falcon 9 Rocket, there’s going to be x-ray telescopes with optics. WAFF spoke with the man behind the mission.

“It’s the first mission ever to be dedicated to measuring a particular property of X-rays called their polarization. It’s something new, and it will be adding to our tool kit of information to try to understand how the fascinating sources in the universe that produce x-rays work,” said Dr. Martin Weisskopf.

IXPE is what Dr. Weisskopf and engineers and scientists are sending up to space.

Some of the main components are the 3 x-ray telescopes and lenses that will collect data and detect x-rays from both black holes and spinning neutron stars.

Here’s why that information is important, for us, down here on Earth.

“The x-ray detectors and sensitive instruments that we build have a way of finding themselves in the medical field, as you mentioned imaging x-rays and also in security. Those airport scanners. Those x-ray scanners were developed by a company that worked in astronomy. So we have to build tools to do these missions and those tools filter their way to benefit all of us,” said Weisskopf.

None of this would be possible without the Tennessee Valley.

“Marshall Space Flight Center and North Alabama have played a very important role. I’m in Marshall and that’s where the experiment was conceived,” said Weisskopf.

The rocket launch scheduled for midnight is simply a dream come true. Weisskopf spent most of his career preparing for this moment.

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