Cryostat, COBE Optical Assembly

Display Status:

This object is on display in the Explore the Universe exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Collection Item Summary:

This is an engineering model of the cryostat used on the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) spacecraft. The cover is partly sliced away to display the optical and electronic components within. These include two of the three instruments flown on COBE: the Far InfraRed Absolute Spectrometer (FIRAS) and the Diffuse InfraRed Background Experiment (DIRBE). The assembly was built at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and transferred to NASM in 1996. It was displayed in many venues, including the 1988 International Astronomical Union meeting in Baltimore. Over the 10 months before the last of the liquid helium evaporated, the instruments on COBE sent back a wealth of data that helped support and elucidate the thermal hot Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe. It was transferred to NASM by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in 1998. It is now on display in the Explore the Universe Gallery.