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NASA decommissions Spitzer Space Telescope after 16 years of service

By Donovan Wilkins

Contributing Writer | Telegraph Local


After more than 16 years of service, the Spitzer Space Telescope is retiring. NASA made the official announcement on its website early Thursday. Spitzer’s last mission was on Wednesday which held a special meaning. During its career, the Spitzer made numerous discoveries that further pushed the boundary of science and space. The Spitzer Space Telescope helped develop more than 36 million images over its lifetime. Spitzer found new galaxies and other Earth-like planets. Spitzer was launched in 2003, becoming one of the four great NASA observatories since then.

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According to NASA, Spitzer Space Telescope has conducted over and published over 9,000 studies in its lifetime. “You have to be proud … when you look back and say, ‘Look at the team that’s operating Spitzer, look at the team that’s contributing to having all of this great science,’ ” said project manager Joseph Hunt about the legacy of the Spitzer Space Telescope.  During its journey, Spitzer became harder to maintain as it drifted further away from the Earth. Spitzer will be less of a threat as it continues to fall further behind Earth.

Many consider Spitzer to be one of the most important inventions for space in recent years. Although once great, nothing good lasts forever. “Although it would be great to be able to operate all of our telescopes forever, this is not possible,” NASA’s astrophysics director Paul Hertz said. NASA planned to retire the Spitzer a few years back but was kept active as plans for the advanced James Webb Space Telescope kept getting delayed.

James Webb Space Telescope launch is set to be delayed until early next year. Technical issues have been the major factor in the delays. The timing of the new telescope couldn’t have been more perfect. Spitzer has cost NASA up to $12 million a year to keep it running. Spitzer Space Telescope continues to amaze scientists with its rich raw images. Spitzer is still one of the greatest observatories, holding the title of the last great one.

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The Hubble Space Telescope, still in operation today, is set to celebrate its 30th anniversary this upcoming April. The Hubble, the most famous and iconic of the four, has been held as the pioneer in space exploration. The telescope takes pictures in ultraviolet and visible light. Since its launch in 1990, Hubble has continued to play a vital role in our study of the universe. The Compton Gamma Ray Observatory was launched in 1991 but upon re-entry was destroyed in 2001. The Chandra X-Ray Observatory, since its 1999 launch, has continued to remain in orbit.




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