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NASA AIM spacecraft shuts down after 15 years

The spacecraft, intended to study mesospheric cloud formation, was only expected to operate for two years.

GREENBELT, Md. — After over 15 years of scientific discovery, one of NASA's long-running spacecrafts is finally shutting down.

NASA announced that the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere, or AIM Spacecraft, is no longer able to support operations due to problems with its battery.

AIM was originally launched in 2007 to study polar mesospheric clouds, also known as "night-shining" or "noctilucent" clouds. Made up of ice crystals, noctilucent clouds are the highest clouds found in Earth's atmosphere and can last up to hundreds of years.

Orbiting 312 miles above Earth, the AIM Mission has provided data for over 15 years that has helped NASA scientists to understand how and why the clouds form and has led to the publication of 379 peer-reviewed scientific papers.

Originally only slated for two years, AIM completed its primary mission in 2009 and has continued its service in "extended operations status" in the years that followed.

NASA said AIM's batteries first began to deteriorate in 2019, but that it still continued to send back significant data. Now, sadly, NASA stated AIM is no longer able to receive commands or collect data due to the batteries declining even further.

According to NASA, the AIM team will continue to monitor communication with the spacecraft for two weeks in case AIM is able to reboot or transmit a signal.

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