NASA’s Geotail mission operations are ending after 30 years


NASA's Geotail mission operations are ending after 30 years

An artist’s concept of the Geotail spacecraft. Credit: NASA

After 30 years in orbit, mission operations for the joint NASA-JAXA spacecraft have ended, after the failure of the spacecraft’s remaining data recorder.

After its launch on July 24, 1992, Geo-Tail orbited Earth, collecting a massive data set about the structure and dynamics of the magnetosphere, Earth’s protective magnetic bubble. Geotail was originally slated for four years, but the mission has been extended several times due to the return of high-quality data, which has contributed to more than a thousand scientific publications.

While one of Geotail’s data loggers failed in 2012, the second continued to operate until it encountered an anomaly on June 28, 2022. After remote repair attempts to the logger failed, job operations were terminated on November 28, 2022.

“The mission has made important contributions to our understanding of how Geotail works,” said Don Fairfield, emeritus astronaut scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and NASA’s first project scientist for Geotail until his retirement in 2008. solar wind It interacts with Earth’s magnetic field to produce magnetic storms and aurorae. ”

With a long orbit, the geosail has sailed through the invisible boundary of the magnetosphere, gathering data about the physical process at play there to help understand how the flow of energy and particles from the Sun gets to Earth. Geotail has made many scientific discoveries, including helping scientists understand how quickly material passes from the sun into the magnetosphere, the physical processes at play at magnetosphere boundaries, and the identification of oxygen, silicon, sodium, and aluminum in the moon’s atmosphere.

The mission also helped locate an operation called Magnetic reconnectionIt is a major transporter of material and energy from the sun to the magnetosphere and one of the triggers for the aurora borealis. This discovery paved the way for A multiscale mission in the magnetosphere (MMS), which was launched in 2015.

Over the years, Geotail has collaborated with many other NASA space missions including MMS, the Van Allen probes, and chronicles the time of large events and interactions during substorms. Expedition, cluster, and wind. with the orbit Taking as far as 120,000 miles from Earth at times, Geotail has helped provide complementary data from distant parts of the magnetosphere to give scientists a complete picture of how events seen in one region affect others. Geotail is also combined with observations on the ground to confirm the location and mechanisms of how the aurora borealis form.

Although Geotail has finished collecting new data, the Scientific discoveries not finished. Scientists will continue to study Geotail data in the coming years.

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