Initially scheduled for a 2.5-year primary mission, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has gone far beyond its expected lifetime -- and is still going strong after 15 years.


Mike Werner: We had no conception at all that we'd be doing this for 15 years as successfully as we have been.

Lisa Storrie-Lombardi: We are beyond where we thought we would be, beyond the engineering limits that this was planned with, and yet it still works, and it still works really well.

Sean Carey: I think an interesting thing about Spitzer is that because we've been able to operate it for so long, we've started to do science that Spitzer wasn't designed to do.  We didn’t design Spitzer to do exoplanets at all.

Probably our biggest single result from Spitzer has been the study of what's called the TRAPPIST-1 system.

Now, after continued study, we know more about the TRAPPIST-1 system than any other planetary system, other than the one that we're in, right? And I think that's really amazing.

Another highlight of Spitzer, and one which was certainly totally unexpected by any of the scientists who had been working on the development of Spitzer, was our ability to map out the distribution of stars throughout our Milky Way galaxy.

And we now have this absolutely beautiful map of the entire 360 degrees of the Milky Way galaxy. I love just watching the movie of the whole galaxy going past.

We’ve created a tremendous scientific instrument which will produce a fantastic legacy that people will use for generations.

And everybody who works on the mission understands that that’s what we’re here to do, is maximize the science return from the observatory.

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