As it is defined in the LIGO Laboratory Charter, LIGO’s mission is to open the field of gravitational-wave astrophysics through the direct detection of gravitational waves. LIGO detectors use laser interferometry to measure the distortions in space-time occurring between stationary, hanging masses caused by passing gravitational waves. LIGO is a national facility for gravitational-wave research, providing opportunities for the broader scientific community to participate in detector development, observations and data analysis.
LIGO is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and operated by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). LIGO's advanced detectors also received financial support for their construction from Australia, Germany, and the United Kingdom. LIGO detectors are available for use by members of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC), comprised of researchers in partner institutions around the world.