NASA officially ends its Spitzer Space Telescope mission

As expected, NASA has announced the official end of its Spitzer Space Telescope. The spacecraft was in operation for more than 16 years, helping scientists learn about our own Solar System, as well as the surrounding galaxy and the wider universe beyond it. On January 30, Spitzer Project Manager Joseph Hunt announced that the mission is officially over; mission engineers put the spacecraft into safe mode and all of its scientific operations have ended.

The Spitzer Space Telescope launched in 2003 as one of NASA's big four space observatories, joining the likes of the Hubble Space Telescope, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Each of these space observatories were designed to focus on different parts of the universe around us, helping scientists learn about the cosmos and our place in it.

The Spitzer mission has a large number of notable achievements in its history, including the discovery of a previously unknown ring around the planet Saturn. As well, this space telescope also found the TRAPPIST-1 system, which features seven planets around the same size as Earth, all of them orbiting the same star.

The James Webb Telescope will be filling the void left by the loss of Spitzer. For this reason, the space agency decided in 2016 that it would end the mission in 2018, but that deadline was changed when the James Webb Telescope was delayed. The James Webb Telescope is scheduled to launch next year, opening the door for an entirely new batch of discoveries.

In a statement about the Spitzer mission, NASA's Science Mission Directorate associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen said:

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. 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.