We have heard that the best-infrared eye in the universe is not available anymore. We will have to wait about a year before we will have this kind of technology working again.
NASA has turned off its Spitzer Space Telescope, and they ended a 16-year mission. The agency firstly didn’t want it to overlap with the next great infrared space telescope, called the James Webb Space Telescope. But it continued to miss schedule targets – a March 2021 launch is right now targeted, so NASA came to the conclusion that a year without infrared observations would not mean the end of the world. So we had to say goodbye for now.
Spitzer was launched in 2003, and it was designed for a 2.5-year mission. But it has outlived its first target. It even ran out of the coolant that was needed in order to keep its temperature-sensitive instrument working, and it was still able to gather scientific data.
But Spitzer’s actions had to end in 2016 when NASA conducted a review of its missions, and they decided that they were not worth operating anymore. Paul Hertz, the director of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, stated that “The decision was made that the Spitzer mission should end as the James Webb mission was beginning.”
NASA then extended Spitzer’s mission, in order to keep track of the delays in launching Webb. But they did set a date to release it, in March 2021. “The time has come for the Spitzer mission to end as we move on to the launch of James Webb next year.” Apparently, the James Webb Space Telescope has a 12% chance of meeting the March 2021 target launch date. If they do not meet this target, it will probably be released in July 2021.
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