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Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

NASA'S Topex/Poseidon Oceanography Mission Ends

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- The joint NASA/Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales TOPEX/Poseidon oceanography satellite ceased operations after nearly 62,000 orbits of Earth. The spacecraft lost its ability to maneuver, bringing to a close a successful 13-year mission.

"TOPEX/Poseidon revolutionized the study of Earth's oceans, providing the first continuous, global coverage of ocean surface topography and allowing us to see important week-to-week oceanic variations," said Mary Cleave, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "Its data made a huge difference in our understanding of the oceans and their affect on global climatic conditions."

TOPEX/Poseidon data have helped in hurricane and El Nino/La Nina forecasting, ocean and climate research, ship routing, offshore industries, fisheries management, marine mammals' research, modernizing global tide models and ocean debris tracking.

"TOPEX/Poseidon was built to fly up to five years, but it became history's longest Earth-orbiting radar mission," said TOPEX/Poseidon Project Scientist Lee-Lueng Fu of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena , Calif. "It provided, on average, more than 98 percent of the science data it was designed to collect in every 10-day measurement cycle, a remarkable achievement."

The satellite's pitch reaction wheel stalled in October. The wheel helps keep the spacecraft in proper orbital orientation. Ground controllers concluded the wheel was not functioning and ended the mission. The satellite is in orbit 830 miles above the Earth, posing no threat to the planet.

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