- NASA shuts down Voyager probe systems this year, Scientific American reported.
- The probes flag after 45 years – the move is a way to keep them going until 2030.
- Voyager 1 and 2 launched in 1977 have come further than any other man-made object.
The epic interstellar journeys of NASA’s acclaimed Voyager probes will end when the agency begins shutting down its systems. Scientific American reported.
The probes were launched 45 years ago, in 1977, and have pushed the boundaries of space exploration ever since. They are further away from the earth than any other artificial object, a record that is likely to remain unbroken for decades.
The decision to reduce the power of the probes is expected to extend their life by a few more years, which will take them to around 2030, according to Scientific American.
“We’ve done the damn thing 10 times the warranty,” Ralph McNutt, a physicist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, told the store, citing initial forecasts that their mission would run for four years.
The the probes are powered by radioactive plutoniumwhich has kept the small on-board computers running for decades on end.
The energy in the system decreases by about 4 watts per year, per Scientific American, which requires a reduction in energy use.
“If everything goes really well, maybe we can get the missions extended to the 2030s. It just depends on the power. That is the limitation,” said Spilker.
The primary purpose of the probes was to fly past Jupiter and Saturn, a mission they soon fulfilled. Then they just kept going, sending back pictures of our solar system and beaming home readings from space.
More striking pictures taken of the probes can be seen in the video below.
1998 became Voyager 1 farthest man-made objects in space – 6.5 billion miles from Earth.
The probes are now 12 and 14.5 billion miles away from Earth and are counted, according to a NASA live tracker.
The instrument’s hard electronics have survived the test of time remarkably well, despite their age.
The primitive computers on board the probes do not require much power. All data collected by the instruments on Voyager is stored on an eight-track tape recorded and sent to Earth with a machine that consumes about as much power as a light bulb in a refrigerator, according to Scientific American.
They have “less memory than the key fob that opens your car door,” Linda Spilker, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told Scientific American.
As the energy on board decreases, NASA will need to decide which instruments will receive the power.
After 2030, Voyager is likely to lose its ability to communicate with Earth. But that does not necessarily mean that its mission will be over.
The both carry a “golden record”, a 12-inch, gold-plated disc that contains information about the earth.
It will be another 20,000 years before the probes pass the nearest star, Proxima centauri, with this time capsule of human life per Scientific American.
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