Mission activities for the joint NASA-JAXA Geotail spacecraft have ceased after 30 years in orbit due to the breakdown of the spacecraft’s only remaining data recorder.
Since its launch on July 24, 1992, Geotail has orbited the planet, amassing a vast amount of data about the composition and dynamics of the magnetosphere, the planet’s shielding magnetic bubble.
Mission Got Stuck
Due to the high-quality data returned from Geotail, which supported more than a thousand scientific papers, the mission’s intended four-year duration was repeatedly extended.
Although one of Geotail’s two data recorders stopped working in 2012, the other one kept working until it developed an abnormality on June 28, 2022. On November 28, 2022, mission operations were suspended due to the recorder’s inability to be remotely repaired.
Expedition A Big Hit
Don Fairfield, emeritus space scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and NASA’s initial project scientist on Geotail until his retirement in 2008, said: “Geotail has been a very productive satellite, and it was the first combined NASA-JAXA mission.”
The mission significantly advanced our knowledge of how the solar wind interacts with the magnetic field of the planet to cause magnetic storms and auroras.
Geotail Got Handy For The Tariff
Geotail’s extended orbit allowed it to pass past the magnetosphere’s invisible limits while collecting information on the physical processes taking place there to better understand how solar energy and solar particle flows reach Earth.
In addition to finding oxygen, silicon, sodium, and aluminum in the lunar atmosphere, Geotail also helped scientists understand the physical processes occurring at the magnetosphere’s edge and how quickly solar material enters the magnetosphere.
The expedition also aided in pinpointing the location of a phenomenon known as magnetic reconnection, which is one of the aurora’s primary sources of material and energy from the Sun. The Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission, or MMS, which debuted in 2015, was made possible because of this finding.
Over the years, Geotail has worked with many of NASA’s other space missions, including MMS, Van Allen Probes, Time History of Events, Macroscale Interactions during the Substorms mission, Cluster, and Wind.
Geotail, whose orbit occasionally took it as far as 120,000 miles from Earth, contributed complementary data from far-flung regions of the magnetosphere to assist researchers get a fuller picture of how events in one place affect other regions.
To establish the location and the processes by which auroras form, geotail is also combined with observations made on the ground.
Geotail has finished acquiring new data, but the scientific research isn’t finished. In the upcoming years, researchers will continue to examine Geotail’s data.