Geotail's mission at NASA comes to an end, and a data recorder failure has halted operations

Geotail's mission at NASA comes to an end, and a data recorder failure has halted operations ...

NASA's Geotail spacecraft is a collaboration between the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and NASA. The spacecraft was designed and built by ISAS and was launched on July 24, 1992, with the main objective of studying the Earth's magnetotail.

After a failure of the spacecraft's remaining data recorder, mission operations for the NASA–JAXA Geotail spacecraft have come to an end.

Geotail has been orbiting Earth since its launch on July 24, 1992, accumulating a vast dataset on Earth's magnetic bubble's structure and dynamics. The mission was initially scheduled for a four-year period, but it was extended several times due to its extensive data return, which resulted in over a thousand scientific papers.

Two Geotail data recorders malfunctioned in 2012, but the second continued to function until it encountered an anomaly on June 28, 2022. After attempts to remotely repair the recorder failed, the mission operations were terminated on November 28, 2022.

"Geotail has been a very efficient satellite, and it was the first combined NASA-JAXA mission," said Don Fairfield, NASA's first project scientist for Geotail until his retirement in 2008.

Geotail sailed through the invisible confines of the magnetosphere, collecting information on the physical process at play there to help scientists understand how energy and particles from the Sun reach Earth. Many scientific breakthroughs include helping scientists identify oxygen, silicon, sodium, and aluminum in the lunar atmosphere.

The mission also helped identify the location of a magnetic reconnection, which is a major transporter of material and energy from the Sun to the magnetosphere, and one of the instigators of the aurora. In 2015, the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission, or MMS, was launched.

Geotail was used by NASA for other space missions including MMS, Van Allen Probes, Time History of Events, and Macroscale Interactions during the Substorms mission, Cluster, and Wind. With an orbit that stretched as far away as 120,000 miles from Earth at times, Geotail helped provide complementary data from remote areas of the magnetosphere to give scientists an insight into how events observed in one area affect other regions. Geotail also paired observations on the ground to verify the location and mechanisms of aurora formation.

Although Geotail has completed its work, the scientific discoveries haven't yet been made. Scientists will continue to research Geotail's data in the coming years.

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