NASA bids farewell to the Spitzer Space Telescope

News Desk
1 February 2020, Sat
Published: 12:25

NASA bids farewell to the Spitzer Space Telescope

NASA has said a final goodbye to its Spitzer Space Telescope, which has been decommissioned after more than 16 years of service. 

NASA mission control downloaded the last Spitzer data and sent through a command to enter safe mode on Thursday, ceasing all scientific operations.

At 2:34 pm PST (10:24 pm GMT) on Thursday, Spitzer Project Manager Joseph Hunt declared the spacecraft officially decommissioned, bringing its mission to an end.

The telescope, which focused on capturing infrared images, launched in 2003 and was operational for 16-and-a-half years, despite only being planned to serve for five.

The spacecraft's most memorable achievements include the discovery of Saturn's largest ring and four TRAPPIST-1 exoplanets, as well as mapping the extensive portraits of the Milky Way. 

Newborn stars peek out from beneath their natal blanket of dust in this dynamic image of the Rho Ophiuchi dark cloud from NASA's Spitzer in 2008

'Spitzer has taught us about entirely new aspects of the cosmos and taken us many steps further in understanding how the universe works, addressing questions about our origins, and whether or not are we alone,' said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

'This Great Observatory has also identified some important and new questions and tantalizing objects for further study, mapping a path for future investigations to follow. 

'Its immense impact on science certainly will last well beyond the end of its mission.'

Among its contributions over 16 years, Spitzer studied comets and asteroids in our Solar System and found a previously unidentified ring around Saturn in 2009 – the planet's largest.