|The end of a very long line
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
Raise a glass tonight, friends, to a faithful little spacecraft that's been whizzing around the Sun for over 17 years.
Ulysses was switched off today.
Launched from the Space Shuttle, it's traveled over 8 billion kilometres in its lifetime. It's seen the poles of the Sun, being the first spacecraft to have an orbit outside the ecliptic plane (defined by the Earth's orbit around the Sun). It's visited Jupiter and comets. It's been bombarded by cosmic dust. It's observed the Sun in nearly all its moods, having been through almost an entire solar magnetic activity cycle (~22 years).
Its hydrazine supply will freeze soon, and it will no longer be able to point its antenna to talk to the Earth. But it will still be out there. Model projections show it remaining in stable resonant orbit between the Sun and Jupiter for decades to come.
Roll on Solar Orbiter!
(Imperial's Space Magnetometer Lab involvement in Ulysses and Solar Orbiter.)
(ESA's tribute to Ulysses)