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31-Oct-01 | IMP-8, venerable solar wind Explorer, shut down

One of NASA’s oldest continuing missions has come to an end.

On Sunday, 28 October, the last commands were sent to the Interplanetary Monitoring Platform IMP-8, retiring the spacecraft from service. Launched in the evening of 25 October 1973 aboard a three-stage Delta rocket, IMP-8 spent the last 28 years measuring the magnetic fields, plasmas, and energetic charged particles of the solar wind as it interacts with Earth’s magnetotail and magnetosheath. It was the fiftieth mission in the long-running Explorer series.

Like EUVE earlier this year, NASA claims that IMP-8 has fallen behind the curve of diminishing science returns versus continuing funding. Its magnetometer failed in 2000, depriving scientists of its primary instrument, yet six of IMP-8’s original twelve instruments continue to function.

In its 28 years of service, IMP-8 has provided data for over 1,000 published scientific papers, several hundred in the last 5 years alone. It also was the impetus for a low-cost, ad hoc data collection system utilizing new technologies after the Spaceflight Tracking and Data Network, capable of receiving IMP-8’s now-obsolete VHF transmissions, was “largely disestablished.” (30-Oct-01 NASA Press Release)

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