Wind: Discoveries and Impacts of a Venerable Spacecraft

Illustration of the Wind spacecraft in front of the magnetosphere that surrounds Earth. Credit: NASA (Public Domain)

Wind has been one of the most robust, diverse, long-lasting, and impactful heliophysics missions ever to have been carried out.

The Wind spacecraft, launched on 1 November 1994, is a critical element in NASA’s Heliophysics System Observatory (HSO) – a fleet of spacecrafts created to understand the dynamics of the Sun‐Earth system. The combination of its longevity, its diverse complement of instrumentation, and high resolution and accurate measurements has led to it becoming the “standard candle” of solar wind measurements. A recent article published in Reviews of Geophysics describes the contributions of Wind to heliophysics and astrophysics. We asked the lead author what Wind has been doing for the past 25 years and what the future might hold.

What was the initial motivation behind launching the Wind spacecraft in November 1994?

Wind was designed and launched as part of the stand-alone Global Geospace Science (GGS) program, a subset of the International Solar Terrestrial Physics (ISTP) program.

The ISTP program was an international collaboration that included the Japanese Geotailspacecraft, the European four-spacecraft Clustermission and SoHO spacecraft, the four Russian Interball spacecraft, and the two GGS spacecraft, Wind and Polar.

The goals for Wind were to investigate basic plasma processes in the near-Earth solar wind and magnetosphere and to provide baseline, near-Earth solar wind observations for inner and outer heliospheric missions.

This mission was one of the initial, coordinated efforts to better understand the Sun-Earth connection and the near-Earth space environment.  This all has been lumped into the broader term “space weather.”

Wind is also one of the first missions (if not the first) that flew a Russian instrument, which came at the end of the Cold War. The scientific studies enabled by Wind have evolved over time owing to its longevity and diversity of instruments and diversity of space environments explored.

The complete Article:

Courtesy of Lynn B. Wilson IIIon 18 May 2021