The ‘Far InfraRed and Submillimetre Telescope’ (FIRST) is the fourth cornerstone mission in the European Space Agency (ESA) science programme. It will perform imaging photometry and spectroscopy in the far infrared and submillimetre part of the spectrum, covering approximately the 60–670 μm range.
The key science objectives emphasize current questions connected to the formation of galaxies and stars, however, having unique capabilities in several ways.
FIRST, a facility available to the entire astronomical community, will carry a 3.5 metre diameter passively cooled telescope. The science pay-load complement – two cameras/medium resolution spectrometers (PACS and SPIRE), and a very high resolution heterodyne spectrometer (HIFI) – will be housed in a superfluid helium cryostat.
In early 2007, FIRST will be placed in a transfer trajectory towards its operational orbit around the Earth-Sun L2 point by an Ariane 5 (shared with the ESA cosmic background mapping mission, Planck). Once operational, FIRST will offer a minimum of 3 years of routine observations; roughly 2/3 of the available observing time is open to the general astronomical community through a standard competitive proposal procedure.