Retirement is in sight for NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope after an amazing run in the pursuit of knowledge and space exploration. The spacecraft has been eyeing the reaches of space for more than 15 years by making itself indispensable for 11 years after achieving original mission goals.
Decommission is scheduled for the 30th of January 2020 and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is taking a moment to reconstruct the instrument’s achievements. Spitzer Space Telescope has an infrared vision so it observes things differently than other telescopes. It detects objects that are otherwise unnoticeable, by means of relying on detecting heat rather than light. An amazing feature that allowed for the observation of distant objects in the galaxy.
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope Is Not Dying Without Shedding More Light On The Universe
Despite having its mission terminated soon, the telescope is still in working order. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory explains: “Spitzer orbits the Sun on a path similar to Earth’s but moves slightly slower. Today it trails about 158 million miles (254 million kilometers) behind our planet – more than 600 times the distance between Earth and the Moon. That distance, along with the curve of Spitzer’s orbit, means that when the spacecraft points its fixed antenna at Earth to download data or receive commands, its solar panels tilt away from the Sun.
During those periods, the spacecraft must rely on a combination of solar power and battery power to operate.”
Finicky issues notwithstanding, Spitzer Space Telescope’s functionality will come to an abrupt halt sooner or later as it drifts further away from Earth on its slow orbit around the Sun. Despite increasing adjustments to its solar array and antenna, it can only transmit data back to NASA for short bursts of around two hours. Making the satellite terribly inefficient at this point in time, with no improvements coming any time soon. Forcing NASA to shut it down in January 2020 so it can peacefully drift through space.
Dee Mongo is a graduate of UFT. She’s based in Toronto and has written for Maclean’s, Motherboard, the National Post, and the Huffington Post. In her spare time, she plays AC/DC on the ukulele and does psychic readings for B-grade celebrities. Dee is our tech/finance correspondent.