The International Ultraviolet Explorer - A Photo Gallery

The International Ultraviolet Explorer was conceived and led to success by Sir Robert Wilson of University College London and Dr. Albert Boggess of Goddard Space Flight Center. Dr. Wilson had proposed an ultraviolet observatory to the European Space Research Organization and been turned down several times. Then he teamed up with Dr. Boggess and NASA. Dr. Boggess’s first attempt to develop an ultraviolet observatory had ended when the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory-B had failed to make orbit in the fall of 1970. Enlisting NASA, ESA, and the UK’s Science Research Council (SRC), they succeeded in creating the IUE. In turn, the IUE succeeded wonderfully for them.

Bob Wilson - click on photo to see his obituary

Bob Wilson photo from Physics Today
Al Boggess - click on photo to see his obituary

Click on the section name to jump to it.

Design and Hardware

IUE optical schematic
Image from the website of the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes

Drawing of the IUE spacecraft
Image taken from the book 45 Years of Heck in Professional
written by Joe Hube

IUE Science Instrument Graphic, NASA photo provided by George Sonneborn

Full-scale engineering model of the telescope in the Smithsonian’s collection

IUE telescope in 1974
NASA photo provided by George Sonneborn

The assembled telescope with engineers at GSFC in 1975
NASA photo provided by George Sonneborn

Assembled spacecraft
NASA photo provided by George Sonneborn

IUE arrives at Kennedy in a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy
NASA photo provided by George Sonneborn

Launch ready spacecraft
NASA photo

Launch preparation, IUE’s fairing closeout at Kennedy
NASA photo provided by George Sonneborn

The IUE in the place it belongs, in an artist’s view
Artwork from the Smithsonian Museum’s website

Launch: 26 January 1978

Click on the photo to see a 3 minute video of the launch. Scott Snell found it.

Here is the audio of IUE’s launch recorded a VILSPA and provided by Pierluigi Selvelli and Roberto Gilmozzi: A 20-minute recording of IUE launch control. You will have to use your arrow to get back here when you are done listening.


Here are two media interviews found by Scott Snell, a more recent laudatory video, and a video recorded by a Guest Observer during his shift.

  • Goddard public affairs interview with Bob Wilson, Al Boggess, and Gerry Longenecker, probably recorded in January 1978. Click here:
  • News 4 segment featuring Yoji Kondo, Cathy Mansperger, and Tom Walker broadcast live from the IUE Science Operations Center in Building 21 at Goddard Space Flight Center on August 18, 1993. Click here:
  • An Unsung Hero of Astronomy: The International Ultraviolet Explorer, a five-minute popular science video Click here:
  • Telescope Operator Tom Walker and Resident Astronomer Martin England read out and get statistics on an image for Guest Observer David Dorren in November 1991. Click here:

    Goddard Operations: Observers and Staff

    NASA operated IUE for 16 hours each day from the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Maryland. The Science Operations Center was located in a suite in Building 21 and the Operations Control Center was in the basement of Building 14. The Science Operations Center initially consisted of the Telescope Operations Center, the Image Processing Center, the Data Management Center, and several offices. Later a Regional Data Analysis Center was added. The center’s cafeteria was in another wing on the same floor and the library was one floor up above the cafeteria.

    Here are photos taken at Goddard, mostly in the Telescope Operations Center. I don’t have sources for most of the photos. Some are NASA publicity photos. Maybe some were taken by Fred Espanak. Who else might have given me photos?

    These photos may have been taken before launch

    Telescope Operators Ruth Ehlers and Bill Crabb in GSFC’s Telescope Operations Center

    TOs Ruth Ehlers and Bill Crabb in GSFC’s TOC

    Post-launch Commissioning

    Resident Astronomer Charlie Wu, TO Bill Crabb, and JPL’s Lonnie Lane

    TOs Bill Crabb, Ruth Ehlers, and Fred Espenak

    RA Al Holm, Ruth Ehlers, and GSFC’s Ralph Bohlin

    Al Holm, Ruth Ehlers, and Ralph Bohlin

    TO Fred Espanak and Jeff Linsky in the TOC

    Ruth Ehlers and Al Holm in the TOC

    Ruth Ehlers, Al Holm, Don West, and Mike Sandford
    Sandford was the camera expert from the UK’s SRC.

    Orange Fine Error Sensor Finder Field superimposed
    on the FES image of HZ Her and the stars around it

    ORBENV - Orbital Environment Display on the EDS

    Photowrite of a echelle spectrum of Eta UMa
    from the Short Wavelength Redundant camera (SWR1019),
    showing the blemishes in that camera

    An LWR echelle of Jupiter’s limb displayed on the EDS

    FES image of ν 1 Draconis and ν 2 Draconis, separated by 62 arcsec

    The Era of Guest Observers

    The sign at Goddard’s gate when IUE Guest Observers started

    Goddard’s newsletter when IUE opened for GOs

    RA Charlie Wu, TO Bill Crabb, and GO Maarten Schmidt

    GOs Bev Oke and Jesse Greenstein with Ruth Ehlers

    Jesse Greenstein and Ruth Ehlers

    Bill Hathaway and GO Erika Bohm-Vitense

    Science Operations secretary Mona Drexler
    photo provided by Tom Quisenberry

    Keith Feggans and Sam Coleman in the Image Processing Center
    photo provided by Tom Quisenberry

    Dot Appleman in Data Management Center
    Photo provided by Barry Turnrose.

    The IUE Operations Control Center in Goddard’s Building 14
    NASA photo provided by George Sonneborn

    GO Paul Vanden Bout. The TO might be Bryan Barrofio

    GO Thornton Page

    GO Larry Aller in the TOC

    Bill Hathaway, Larry Aller, and Tony Keyes

    GO Richard Green in IUE’s luxurious GO Office

    RA Bob Panek at a data analysis terminal

    Administrator Robert Frosch visited the IUE TOC
    Sally Heap was the GO for the occasion

    Novelist James Mitchner visited IUE in July 1980
    His next book, “Space”, dealt with manned spaceflight

    GO Joy Heckathorn with an unidentified TO

    Spectrum of Comet 1983D IRAS-Araki-Alcock on the EDS
    Image taken from NASA website

    GO Gerrie Peters and TO Muriel Taylor

    RA Cathy Imhoff

    GOs Ed Guinan and Dave Bradstreet
    Photo provided by Gerrie Peters

    RA Carol Grady and TO Holly Abrahams (with her
    back to the camera). Photo provided by Gerrie Peters

    TO Betsy Park and RA Terry Teays
    Photo provided by Gerrie Peters

    Gerrie Peters observing with TO Jaime Esper
    Photo provided by Gerrie Peters

    RA Mike Crenshaw
    Photo provided by Gerrie Peters

    Muriel Taylor and RA Nancy Oliversen
    Photo provided by Gerrie Peters

    Yoji Kondo, TO Matt Garhart, Don West, and RA George Sonneborn

    Supernova 1987A C IV lines overlayed on the EDS spectrum display
    NASA photo

    RA Nancy Oliversen’s infant son with TO Daryl Weinstein

    Ron Parise, DMC RA and payload specialist astronaut for Ultraviolet
    Imaging Telescope. Photo provided by Gerrie Peters

    IUE/CSC staff in the late days, image from Karen Levay

    VILPSA Operations

    The IUE was controlled for eight hours each day from the ESA's Villafranca Satellite Tracking Station, known as “VILSPA”, located about 30 km west of Madrid. Scheduled ESA and UK researchers would visit the station to make their observations The time when VILSPA’s control of the IUE began shifted 2 hours earlier every month because the spacecraft dipped below VILSPA’s horizon during perigee, which was fixed in sidereal time.

    Panarama view of the VILSPA station. Photograph provided by Ian Howarth

    IUE was developed to be operated from both VILSPA and GSFC
    as illustrated in this sticker image from Pierluigi Selvelli

    Piero Benvenuti explaining IUE operations to
    Queen Sophia and King Juan Carlos of Spain
    during VILSPA’s dedication on May 12, 1978.
    Image taken from scrolling photos during VILSPA’s
    IUE 45th launch celebration on January 26, 2023

    André Heck training Françoise Beeckmans de Westmeerbeeck
    Image taken from the book 45 Years of Heck in Professional
    written by Joe Hube

    SWP echelle wavcal spectrum
    Image provided by Pierluigi Selvelli

    Cecile Gry explains a stressful realtime observation to a visitor
    Photo from Cecile Gry

    Cecile Gry in VILSPA’s RA office in 1984
    Photo from Cecile Gry

    An aerial view of the VILSPA satellite operations station
    Image taken from scrolling photos during VILSPA’s
    IUE 45th launch celebration on January 26, 2023

    VILSPA’s castle at sunset
    Photo from Roberto Gilmozzi

    One of VILSPA’s antennas
    Image taken from scrolling photos during VILSPA’s
    IUE 45th launch celebration on January 26, 2023

    Three Agency Coordination Meetings

    Twice a year, NASA, ESA, and SRC management and staff met to coordinate management, operation, data processing, and calibration for IUE. Initially NASA representatives visited VILSPA in the fall while ESA and UK members visited in spring Goddard for the same purpose. Later the meetings were held in other locations.

    The Telescope Operations Console at VILSPA

    The computer room at VILSPA

    Enjoying dinner in a Madrid restaurant in November 1981
    Kate Turnrose, Al Boggess, Ivan Mason, Al Holm, and Bill Crabb
    Photo by Barry Turnrose

    Returning to our hotel after dinner in November 1981
    Bill Crabb, Kate and Barry Turnrose, Al Holm, and Ivan Mason
    Photo by Barry Turnrose

    The group photo from the 1985 3-Agency meeting in London
    Photo provided by Steve Shore

    Final Archive meeting participants. Third from the right is Chris Lloyd,
    to the right of him Prab Gondhalekar, and at the far right Dave Giaretta.
    In the front row are Michele De La Pena and Joy Nichols.
    Image taken from scrolling photos during VILSPA’s
    IUE 45th launch celebration on January 26, 2023

    End of IUE Operations

    When NASA decided to terminate the science operations of IUE at GSFC in 1995, a commemoration ceremony was held. VILSPA operations continued for another year and then they too ended on 30 September 1996.

    Invitation to the Commemoration

    Locations of all IUE observations
    Yellow for SWP and Red for LW
    Image from ESA

    Highlights of IUE's Contributions to Astrophysics

    A GSFC version of the all-sky map of IUE observations was published on the Astronomical Photo of the Day (APOD) on 30 September 1996. You can see it here: . Sadly, the accompanying write-up has links to NASA pages that no longer exist.

    Cathy Imhoff and Joy Nichols with two others at an IUE legacy poster

    A Celebration of IUE 30 Years after Launch

    A celebration of the 30-year anniversary of IUE was held at Goddard’s Recreation Center. Many of the development, management, and operations staff were able to attend. Many people were invited to give short presentations. Food and drink was provided. Former colleagues had the chance to socialize.
    Master of Ceremonies Al Boggess

    Yoji Kondo, GSFC Project Scientist after Dr. Boggess

    Jerry Longanecker, IUE Project Manager

    Henry Hoffman, GSFC’s attitude control system expert

    Dan Klinglesmith, Data Processing System Manager

    Dennis Evans, IUE Instrument Manager

    Peter Perry, CSC manager

    Charlie Wu

    Goddard’s first telescope operations crew
    Left to right: Charlie Wu, Skip Schiffer, Bill Hathaway, Al Holm,
    Bill Crabb, and Ruth Ehlers Bradley

    The Telescope Operators
    Muriel Taylor, Steve Walter, Bill Crabb, Bill Hathaway,
    Rick Wasatonic, Ruth Ehlers Bradley, Matt Garhart,
    Otto Brugeman, and Jim Caplinger

    Keith Kalinowski

    RA Nancy Oliversen

    GO Warren Moos

    Mike Hauser and Ted Stecher

    Fred Bruhweiler
    Photo courtesy of Barry Turnrose

    Ralph Bohlin and Nancy Boggess
    Photo courtesy of Barry Turnrose

    IUE 30th Anniversary cake
    Photo courtesy of Barry Turnrose

    Connie and Ted Gull, Emily (Gowing) Boeshaar and Greg Boeshaar
    Photo courtesy of Barry Turnrose

    TO Rick Wasatonic

    Al Boggess with Carol Grady

    In the Smithsonian

    Smithsonian Air and Space Museum curator David DeVorkin visited the IUE operation with a crew to add to the museum’s collections. They obtained a console, minus the electronics, from the Operations Control Center. At the TOC, they collected all the hand-written operations notes we had attached to the Experiment Display System in the TOC and gave us xeroxed copies in exchange.

    For a time, the IUE engineering model, the console, and the operations notes were displayed at the main Air and Space Museum on the Mall. Eventually, the exhibit was removed and the EDS exhibit was moved to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport. These photos were taken there.

    IUE EDS at Udvar-Hazy Center with original operations notes

    EDS description at Udvar-Hazy

    Engineering test model in a National Air and Space Museum exhibit

    45th Anniversary of Launch

    The 45th anniversary of the launch of the IUE was celebrated over Zoom on Saturday, 28 January 2023, two days after the actual anniversary. Two meetings were held to accommodate as many veterans of the IUE program as possible. Both meetings had a general session with speakers. The general session was followed by breakout rooms representing different interests.

    The talks given during the general sessions were:

    George Sonneborn IUE Toast
    Peter Perry IUE’s earliest days
    Ted Gull Pre-launch thermal flexure fix; invisible target acquisitions
    Andrea Dupree IUE commissioning and other GO experience; Observing SN1987A
    Mckenzie Ferrari, introduced by Nancy Evans Lasting Archives: Combining IUE data with HST/STIS and Gaia
    Roberto Gilmozzi Synergy between IUE and Gaia
    Franco Giovannelli Coordinating observations with IUE and other missions
    Jeff Linsky Some accomplishments of IUE concerning cool stars.
    Bob Nelson IUE’s Role in Understanding the Nature of Solar System objects (second session only)
    Gerrie Peters The IUE GO Experience: Then and Now
    Albert Holm Highly interactive and highly collaborative observations of ZZ Psc (first session only)
    Mario Perez The ULTRASAT Participating Scientist Program (second session only)

    Seventy-two participants attended the first session. Click here for a video of the 1st general session
    Forty attended the second session. Click here for a video of the 2nd general session

    A gallery of some of the participants
    in the first general session

    Participants in the first session breakout room
    for operations

    Participants in the first session breakout room
    for stars

    IUE’s rapid response to the discovery of SN1987A
    A slide from Andrea Dupree’s presentation

    Dupree’s slide about napping during long
    US1 exposures and being awakened by the alarm
    or by the 4 AM smell of bacon from the cafeteria

    IUE Commissioning Team member Jeff Linsky

    The youngest participant, a U Mass student doing archival research with IUE

    IUE Commissioning Team member Andrea Dupree

    In Memoriam

    Some of our IUE colleagues - developers, staff, and observers - who have passed away

    Michael A’ Hearn (1940-2017)
    Al Boggess (1929-2020)
    Erica Bohm-Vitense (1923-2017)
    Tom Bolton (1943-2021)
    Jason A. Cardelli (1955-1996)
    Angelo Cassatella (1944-2015)
    Robert D. Chapman (1938-2021)
    Peter S. Conti (1934 - 2021)
    Bruce Coulter ( - 2018)
    Reggie Dufour (1948-2021)
    Walter Feibelman (1930-2004)
    Paul Feldman (1939-2022)
    Jesse L. Greenstein (1909-2002)
    Kevin Hassett ( -2022)
    Henry C Hoffman (1925-2013)
    James Kaler (1938 -2022)
    Dan Klinglesmith III (1939-2019)
    Yoji Kondo (1933-2017)
    Lonnie Lane (1939-2019)
    Gerry Longanecker (1933-2018)
    Rosalie (Ewald) Marley ( -2022)
    Ivan Mason (1929-2019)
    Andrew G. (Andy) Michalitsianos (1947-1997)
    Bev Oke (1928 -2004)
    Ron Oliversen (1953-2021)
    Ronald Parise (1951-2008)
    Michael Penston (1943-1990)
    Judy Pepoy (1961-2014)
    Ronald Pitts (1949-2008)
    Nick Sanduleak (1933-1990)
    Blair Savage (1941-2022)
    Howard Scott (1946-2020)
    Sid Brody
    Len Smith ( -2022)
    Anne Underhill (1920-2003)
    Michael Van Steenberg (1959-2010)
    Nolan R. Walborn (1944-2018)
    Willem Wamsteker (1942-2005)
    Allan J. Willis (1951-2018)
    Sir Robert Wilson (1927-2002)

    Prepared by Albert Holm, 26 Jan 2023
    Updated: 5 March 2023