By Pedro Diaz-Rubin | February 7th, 2020
I joined the Spitzer Flight Control Team four years ago. I worked as the ACE, which is the person who sends commands to the Spitzer observatory and monitors the data coming down from the spacecraft.
One particular experience I recall happened in 2016. As I was monitoring the downloading of the science data, I noticed the data set was labeled Trappist-1. At that time, I had no idea what Trappist-1 meant. I just kept executing my regular tasks as an ACE.
A few months later, our Program Manager announced during the staff meeting that Spitzer confirmed a total of seven Earth-sized planets in the Trappist-1 system. Spitzer not only confirmed them, but also verified that three of the planets were in the system’s habitable zone.
For me, as a Spitzer ACE, it was overwhelming to realize I radiated the commands for Spitzer to point to such amazing targets. And even more overwhelming was the realization of having monitored the downloading of the Trappist-1 data. There is no doubt: we all contribute to the exploration of space.
I know I am going to miss operating Spitzer when it is decommissioned. It is a great observatory that has made discoveries of historic proportions. Even now, on the verge of its retirement, it made the news by confirming the existence of the Earth-sized exoplanet TOI 700 d.
I will always be proud of being a member of the Spitzer’s Team. Farewell Spitzer!