On July 1, after 17 years of service, the sun officially sets on the Ulysses solar mission. Ulysses forever changed the way scientists view the sun and its effect on space.

Transcript:

NASA commentator:
5-4-3-2-1. Ignition and lift-off of Discovery and the Ulysses spacecraft bound for the polar regions of the sun.

Ed Smith Ulysses Project Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory It was a dawn launch and it was quite spectacular.


Nigel Angold, Ulysses Operations Manager, European Space Agency
ESA built the spacecraft. The operations have been performed jointly by both an ESA team and a JPL team working at JPL.

Ed Smith Ulysses Project Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
The sun has a big effect on space,including Earth, and it's the star that's nearest to us.

Ed Massey, Ulysses Project Manager, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Ulysses is a mission that is very unique in that it is exploring the sun's atmosphere at all latitudes.

Ed Smith Ulysses Project Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Be very important to see what's going on in the third dimension and particularly over the poles of the sun. We've learned about the sun's magnetic field, how it influences the origin of the solar wind and its subsequent evolution. We've learned about how the sun accelerates particles. We were able to see that those particles are able to essentially access all regions surrounding the sun, and the way in which it creates this heliosphere. It interacts with interstellar matter coming in. Some of the discoveries that we really didn't anticipate - one of them was the comet tails. We were quite surprised. We knew that there was a huge comet out there called Hyakutake and we didn't go anywhere near that comet but to our great surprise we ended passing through the tail of the comet. But nobody anticipated how long it could be. They stretched from out further in the distance from the sun to the Earth and that was why we were able to pass through the tail.

Ed Massey, Ulysses Project Manager, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Ulysses was definitely worth it. It was a small spacecraft. It was a very inexpensive mission, had a small operating team and it returned tremendous amount of data, new discoveries of the sun and the heliosphere -- things that never would have been known had we not flown a mission like Ulysses over the poles of the sun.

Nigel Angold, Ulysses Operations Manager, European Space Agency
Given that the scientific data that has been returned from Ulysess over the course of the mission is going to be used for decades to come, it is also a moment of great pride for all of the team. Ed Smith Ulysses Project Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory So I was the first person to be assigned to the mission by NASA by JPL and I've been with it this whole time. So it's been 30 years, a big part of my career, I've been doing other things as well, but this has been an exceptional opportunity and my plan is to continue on until the end of the mission and I expect to be the last person to be here. I'm going to turn off the lights (laughs).

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
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