Designed as a four-month mission to study starburst galaxies, the Wide-Field Infrared Explorer, or WIRE, failed soon after launch due to a malfunction that caused the space telescope's coolant to be rapidly depleted.

The Wide-Field Infrared Explorer did, however, reach Earth orbit and was instead used for astroseismology, which involved measuring the oscillations of nearby stars to examine their structure. Spacecraft operations were transferred to Bowie State University's Operations and Control Center until the space telescope re-entered Earth's atmosphere on May 10, 2011.