Image: Ulysses space probe
The Ulysses space probe has ceased operations after 18 years.
updated 6/30/2009 8:21:42 PM ET 2009-07-01T00:21:42

The U.S. and European spacecraft Ulysses has ended its more than 18-year mission to explore and research the region of space above the poles of the sun.

A statement from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena says Ulysses followed programmed commands Tuesday afternoon that ceased its operations.

Ulysses made nearly three full orbits of the sun while researching the heliosphere, a bubble in space carved by the solar wind.

The NASA and European Space Agency spacecraft was launched aboard space shuttle Discovery on Oct. 6, 1990. Ulysses far outlasted its planned five-year life, but the mission was ended because the craft was encountering increasing cold, age and other problems.

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