NASA is starting to shut down the Voyager probes, which were launched in 1977 and made it deeper into space than anything else since then.

NASA is starting to shut down the Voyager probes, which were launched in 1977 and made it deeper into space than anything else since then.

  • 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.

Saturn's rings are shown in false color in an image taken by a 1981 Voyager probe.

Saturn’s rings are shown in false color in an image taken by a Voyager probe on August 23, 1981.


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.

1990 took Voyager 1 the iconic “pale blue dot” composite image, a view of the earth taken 3.7 billion miles from our sun.

Pale Blue Dot_update

The Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of Earth taken on February 14, 1990 by NASA’s Voyager 1 at a distance of 3.7 billion miles. This is a 2020 reissue.

NASA / JPL-Caltech

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.

It is beyond what is generally considered to be the limits of our solar system. Voyager 1 reached “interstellar space” in 2012, Voyager 2 2018, the first human objects to do so in history.

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.

an image shows the eight-track machine on which data is stored in Voyager.

Data from the mission is stored on this eight-track machine, which will be at the forefront when it is launched.


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.

This contains 115 images, greetings in 55 different languages, sounds including wind, rain and human heartbeatand 90 minutes of music.

The two sides of NASA's golden record aboard the Voyager probes are shown here.

NASA’s golden record, aboard the Voyager probes.

NASA / Insider

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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