George Smoot


The road to COBE was long and treacherous.  It started in 1974 when NASA received several good proposals to search for detail in the cosmic background signal.  Rather than choosing one proposal, in 1976 NASA administrators invited members of the three teams to work together and come up with the best possible plan.  John Mather and George Smoot were two of the members on the new team.  
Whereas Mather had attempted to measure the spectrum of the microwave background from mountaintops and balloons, Smoot had used a U-2 spy plane to seek the differences in temperature.  But everyone thought that it would be possible to find slight differences in temperature if the instruments were sufficiently sensitive—and if they could be placed on a satellite above the atmosphere.   They got their chance when COBE was launched by a Delta rocket in 1989.