ESA Bulletin 136: The Epic Voyage of Ulysses
31 October 2008Ulysses has forever changed the way scientists view the Sun and its effect on the surrounding space. In the November 2008 issue of the ESA Bulletin Richard Marsden and Nigel Angold consider the epic voyage of this remarkable spacecraft.
After almost 18 years of operation, the joint ESA/NASA mission Ulysses was officially due to come to an end in July 2008 because of the decline in power produced by its on-board generator. However, operations have continued since then on a day-to-day basis and will continue until the hydrazine fuel eventually freezes or runs out.
Once that happens, it will be impossible to point the high gain antenna towards Earth and Ulysses’ voyage of discovery will be over.
During its 18 years in space, Ulysses has rewarded scientists with the unprecedented depth and breadth of its results. These have not just been about the Sun and its influence on nearby space, however: the mission has also provided surprising insights into the nature of our galaxy and even the fate of the Universe.
The authors highlight a few of the unique scientific contributions of Ulysses, look back at some of the engineering challenges faced during its extraordinary 18 years of operations, and consider the legacy of this exceptional mission.