The European Space Agency launches a single Ariane 5 rocket to deliver a pair of unmanned space telescopes to the L2 LaGrange point trailing Earth. The super-cooled Herschel Space Observatory will search for objects at the far-infrared end of the spectrum, while the Planck Space Observatory will scan the microwave spectrum. Though both telescopes are sent to the same general region of space, they are entirely separate spacecraft which will operate independently of one another.
The European Space Agency officially shuts down the Herschel Space Observatory, having exhausted the unmanned orbital telescope’s remaining fuel supply with a maneuver to push it safely out of Earth’s L2 LaGrange point, opening that part of space up for future missions. Herschel’s science observations had ended when its supply of helium coolant, required to keep its instruments super-cooled to detect distant objects at the far-infrared end of the spectrum, ran out in April. Its replacement, the Gaia Space Observatory, is already being prepared for launch by ESA later in 2013.