This mission was designed to last at least two-and-a-half years; 13 years later, Spitzer has operated far beyond the scope of the original mission.
In 2003, the launch of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope began a mission designed to last at least two-and-a-half years.
Thirteen years later, Spitzer has operated far beyond the scope of the original mission.
Spitzer's infrared vision has revealed the Universe in new ways, from mapping extrasolar planet temperatures, to discovering a ring around Saturn hundreds of times larger than any previously known.
Spitzer has also discovered tiny buckyball molecules in space, and produced a 360 degree infrared panorama of the Milky Way.
Over time, Spitzer has been able to last longer and do more than expected, thanks to changes in spacecraft operations and engineering.
Increased pointing precision has expanded Spitzer's ability to study and characterize planets outside our solar system.
Working together, Spitzer and the Hubble Space Telescope have discovered some of the most distant galaxies known.
Spitzer is now planned to last beyond the 2018 launch of its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope.
Already more than 130 million miles away, Spitzer faces increasing challenges communicating with Earth, requiring engineers to override some autonomous safety systems.
While this adds extra risk, it opens the door for years of new exciting discoveries, as this mission phase continues to take Spitzer beyond.