This artist's concept shows NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Spitzer begins its "Beyond" mission phase on Oct. 1, 2016. Spitzer is depicted in the orientation it assumes to establish communications with ground stations.
Spitzer is over 130 million miles (210 million kilometers) away from Earth, or about 1.5 times the distance between Earth and the Sun. The selected research proposals for Spitzer's Beyond phase include a variety of objects that the mission was not originally planned to address -- such as galaxies in the early universe, the black hole at the center of the Milky Way and exoplanets.
Spitzer faces increasing challenges and risks in its Beyond phase. To enable this riskier mode of operations, the mission team will have to override some autonomous safety systems. Mission engineers are hard at work preparing for these new challenges.