The Ulysses spacecraft was launched in 1990 as a joint ESA-NASA project, and in nearly 18 years of operation — four times its expected lifespan – it has provided invaluable data on the Sun and its heliosphere that will be used for many years to come. Check out this cool NASA video.
CalTech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the quarterdeck for Ulysses’ ESA and NASA helmsmen, highlighted some of the project’s accomplishments last week:
Ulysses was the first mission to survey the environment in space above and below the poles of the sun in the four dimensions of space and time. It showed the sun’s magnetic field is carried into the solar system in a more complicated manner than previously believed. Particles expelled by the sun from low latitudes can climb to high latitudes and vice versa, sometimes unexpectedly finding their way out to the planets. Ulysses also studied dust flowing into our solar system from deep space, and showed it was 30 times more abundant than astronomers suspected. In addition, the spacecraft detected helium atoms from deep space and confirmed the universe does not contain enough matter to eventually halt its expansion.
Many-miled Ulysses is about to run out of power — its sails should go slack by the end of the month.
You have our thanks, sailor.