​For the greater good, sometimes you have to let go. Even if its a space probe. ​

Launched 40 years ago, Voyager 1 and 2 has become the first spacecraft to wander farther and beyond our solar system. 

They are also the first space probes to get us a closer shot of Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus during a fly by. 

Currently floating away, approx 11 billion miles from our plant, it is still up and running with frequent check-in with the control center here. 

Source: NASA

If you wanna read more about them, read this article I wrote earlier here

Getting into its the techy side now, 

Voyagers generates power using radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTGs), where the heat generated during the decay of radioactive element(plutonium-238) is converted into electricity that powers the spacecraft. 

With only 5 instruments currently working, Voyager 2 which entered the interstellar space only last year, has been such help to humanity so far by feeding new information that unveils the mysteries of the universe. And it continues to do so.

Source: NASA

NASA has made difficult choices in the past regarding various instruments and thrusters in both the spacecraft before. 

  • Voyager 1 – They turned off a set of thrusters to give spacecraft’s antenna to be pointed towards the Earth. This hasn’t been turned on for 37 years now.
  • Voyager 2 – They did the same thing by firing up the trajectory correction maneuver thrusters on July 8 2019. This was done to control the pointing of the spacecraft of anything that comes along the way in the future. These were last used in 1989 during its last encounter with Neptune. Same was done to its predecessor in Jan 2018.

As they both travel deeper in to space, the power to keep everything running like science instruments and the working condition of the spacecraft itself, scientists had to make decisions to cut few things off. And since, Voyager 2 has more instrument than its predecessor, they chose this one. The more the instrument, the more the power. 

After loads of discussions, scientists decided to disable/turn off one of its mechanism to boost its life and it was the heater of the cosmic ray subsystem (CRS) instrument that took the blow.  

This instrument was responsible for letting us know that Voyager 2 has crossed the heliosphere – the bubble that extends further solar system formed by the wind of ionized particles from the sun. 

Although the heating system of CRS was turned off, it is still functioning and sending back data with its system at minus 59 degree Celsius – the temperature at which CRS was tested 42 years ago. 

Source: NASA

“It’s incredible that Voyagers’ instruments have proved so hardy,” said Voyager Project Manager Suzanne Dodd, who is based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “We’re proud they’ve withstood the test of time. The long lifetimes of the spacecraft mean we’re dealing with scenarios we never thought we’d encounter. We will continue to explore every option we have in order to keep the Voyagers doing the best science possible.”

These two travelers has many miles to go before they sleep…

“Both Voyager probes are exploring regions never before visited, so every day is a day of discovery,” said Voyager Project Scientist Ed Stone, who is based at Caltech. “Voyager is going to keep surprising us with new insights about deep space.”

…and I agree. 


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