NASA is preparing to deactivate its Spitzer Space Telescope, which is the last mission from its Great Observatories program. The agency will officially end the mission later this month.

Spitzer is an orbiting satellite that's equipped with an infrared telescope. Through its imaging capabilities, it is able to view cosmic objects at wavelengths that are not normally visible to the human eye.

Spitzer Space Telescope
Artist's illustration of the Spitzer Space Telescope. NASA

Spitzer and NASA'S Great Observatories

The space telescope was officially launched by NASA on Aug. 25, 2003, through the Delta II rocket. It is one of the four large and powerful satellites launched by NASA as part of its Great Observatories program. Its main goal is to observe the various cosmic events, objects and structures in the universe.

Aside from Spitzer, the other satellites featured in the program are the Hubble Space Telescope, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Spitzer is the last satellite that was launched as part of the program. Since the start of its mission, the orbiting observatory has been providing stunning infrared images of different cosmic objects in space.

Cat's Paw Nebula
Photo of Cat's Paw Nebula. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Deactivating The Space Telescope

After about 16 years in space, NASA is now preparing to deactivate Spitzer, which will officially take place on Jan. 30. According to the agency, it has decided to end Spitzer's mission in January while it is still fully functional. This way, the agency will be able to end the mission in a controlled manner.

"There have been times when the Spitzer mission could have ended in a way we didn't plan for," Bolinda Kahr, the mission manager for Spitzer said in a statement. "I'm glad that in January we'll be able to retire the spacecraft deliberately, the way we want to do it."

To mark Spitzer's deactivation and to celebrate its contributions in space exploration, NASA will host a special event this week. The event will take place on Jan. 22 and will be broadcasted live through various platforms including YouTube, Facebook, NASA Television and Twitter. It can also be viewed through NASA's website starting at 1:00 pm EST. The upcoming event will mainly feature speakers from various fields such as Paul Hertz, the Astrophysics Division Director for NASA and Mike Werner, the project scientist for Spitzer.