NASA’s AIM spacecraft goes quiet after a 15-year run studying Earth’s oldest clouds

After 15 years in space, NASA’s AIM mission is ending. In a short blog post mocked by Gizmodo, the agency said Thursday that it stopped operational support for the spacecraft due to a battery power failure. NASA first noticed problems with AIM’s battery in 2019, but the probe still sent a “significant amount of data” back to Earth. After another recent drop in battery power, NASA says AIM is unresponsive. The AIM team will monitor the spacecraft for another two weeks if it restarts, but judging by the tone of NASA’s post, the agency isn’t holding its breath.

NASA launched the AIM – Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere – mission in 2007 to study nocturnal or nocturnal clouds, which are sometimes known as fossilized clouds because they can last for hundreds of years in Earth’s upper atmosphere. From its vantage point 370 miles above the planet’s surface, the spacecraft proved invaluable to scientists, with data collected by AIM appearing in 379 peer-reviewed papers, including a recent 2018 study that found methane emissions from human-driven climate change cause night – shiny clouds form more often. Pretty good for a mission NASA originally expected to operate for just two years. AIM’s demise follows another long-running NASA spacecraft. Earlier this year, the agency abandoned the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite after a nearly four-decade run collecting ozone and atmospheric measurements.

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