IMAGE, 2000

Bill Sandel

I’ve been spending most of my time since 1996—wow, ten years now—on a mission called IMAGE [Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration], which is another Earth-orbiting mission. IMAGE is a MIDEX mission, mid-sized explorer missions. IMAGE was the first one; it was a new concept. Jim Burch at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio is the mission’s Principal Investigator. The satellite and all the instruments on it are dedicated toward imaging the Earth’s magnetosphere in several different ways. It was a new concept, never been done before, so we’re in a position to really make some exciting new discoveries. And we did. It’s really been fun.

Our understanding has increased in big steps with each new mission. When you look with new eyes, you see new things. You can hardly avoid it. With IMAGE, boy, just coming to work everyday has been a real gift, because the plasmasphere changes all the time. It’s continually shrinking and expanding in response to forces from the outside, so you never know what it’s going to look like the next time you look.