The Herschel Space Observatory was a space-based telescope that studied the Universe in the light of the far-infrared and submillimeter portions of the spectrum. It was expected to reveal new information about the earliest, most distant stars and galaxies, as well as those closer to home in space and time. It would also take a unique look at our own solar system.
Herschel was the fourth Cornerstone mission in the European Space Agency's Horizon 2000 program. Ten countries, including the United States, were participating in its design and implementation. It was scheduled to be launched in 2008, and was expected to remain an active observatory for at least three years.