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Solar System Exploration
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Ulysses Mission to Comets Ulysses Mission to Jupiter Ulysses Mission to Our Solar System

Goals: Ulysses primary science target was our Sun, but the solar orbiter's unique orbit and long lifespan produced three unexpected encounters with comet tails and a chance for bonus science.

Accomplishments: The spacecraft's May 1996 encounter with comet Hyakutake revealed comet tails are far longer than expected. The tail extended half a billion kilometers (more than 300 million miles) - more than three times the distance from the Earth to the Sun. The discovery marked the longest comet tail - streams of ions, gas and dust extending away from the Sun - recorded at the time.


Key Dates
6 Oct 1990:  Launch (11:47:16 UT)
8 Feb 1992:  Jupiter Gravity Assist
26 Jun 1994 - 5 Nov 1994:  1st South Polar Pass
13 Mar 1995:  1st Ecliptic Crossing
19 Jun 1995 - 29 Sep 1995:  1st North Polar Pass
1 May 1996:  Comet Hyakutake Encounter
30 Jun 2009:  End of Mission
Status: Successful
Fast Facts
Ulysses Facts Ulysses was the first spacecraft to study our Sun's poles.

Ulysses was launched aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery STS-41 mission (right).

The spacecraft used Jupiter's powerful gravity to hurl it into an orbit that couldn't be reached with conventional rocket power.

Ulysses was the first spacecraft to fly by the Sun's polar regions.

Ulysses was launched by the Space Shuttle Discovery.

Ulysses was built by the European Space Agency, which managed it in cooperation with NASA.
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Last Updated: 15 Aug 2013