The Voyager 1 and 2 are 42 years in space and still in operation. And although they are 18 billion kilometers from the sun, they are scientifically valuable. But they run out of energy, and if NASA wants them to go on much longer, they'll have to make some decisions.
The Energy Problem
The energy problem becomes more and more critical for the Voyager over time. Their scientific instruments not only need energy, but the spaceships must also keep warm in the cold environment of space. The two spaceships are not solar powered: this would not be possible near the sun. Their energy is based on thermoelectric radioisotope generators (RTG).
Each of the Voyager probes has three RTGs and uses plutonium 238 as the fuel source. When this isotope decays, heat is created which is converted into electrical energy. Each Voyager started with a power of 470 watts at 30 volts DC, which however deteriorated over time. Not only is the fuel constantly consumed, but the thermocouples used in the system get worse over time. As of 201
Although these 270 watts are better than predicted when the probes were designed and launched, it still means that inevitable decisions must be made about which spacecraft systems to shut down.
First, you must pay NASA the honor of keeping the probes running for so long. It is amazing in itself. Some parts of the probes are already off and remarkably still working.
In response to energy issues, NASA shut down the heater for the Voyager 1 UV spectrometer in 2011. This instrument was designed to operate at temperatures as low as -35 degrees Celsius (-31 degrees Fahrenheit). However, after turning off the heater, it continued to operate at -79 degrees Celsius (-110 degrees Fahrenheit).
But that was in 2011, and RTGs have lost even more power since then. In fact, they lose about 0.8% of their power each year. Now, NASA engineers sharpen their slide rules and create a new energy management plan to keep the probes up and running longer.
Turn off the heater to keep the Voyager running
Recently, NASA decided to turn off the heater for another instrument, this time for Voyager 2. You have the heater for the Cosmic Ray Subsystem (CRS) Voyager 2 turned off. , That's too bad, because in November 2018, the CRS instrument was critical to Voyager 2's departure from the heliosphere and its entry into interstellar space. Since the probes left the heliosphere, they send us unique and important information about how the heliosphere interacts with the interstellar wind. No other spacecraft can do that, and it would take decades to install another.
If the lines supplying fuel to the engines were to freeze, engineers could not target the spaceship antennas or instruments. At this point, the spaceship would probably be unusable. So you also need heat.
However, there is another problem with the engines. Inevitably, such systems fail over time, and in 2017 the engineers found a problem. Some of the engines on Voyager 1 had to work harder to maintain proper alignment with the earth. So they turned to some unused engines to see if they could do the job.
Believe it or not, these secondary engines have not been used for 37 years. But they were exhausted and did their job. That must be a kind of record for itself.
Now the main engines of Voyager 2 are beginning to show problems. Due to the success they had with the old, unused engines of Voyager 1, the engineers decided to start the old backup engines on Voyager 2 as well. But they did not sleep as long as Voyager 1 existed. They were last used when Voyager met Neptune 30 years ago in 1989, and NASA plans to turn it on later this month.
With clever engineering, careful planning, and reasonable use of the remaining energy of both Voyager, the inevitable end of the spaceship is delayed. As a result, their ongoing scientific contributions can go on for a while into the future.
Engineers and mission planners believe there will be a few years left to operate. This is important because everything we learn about the region of space they are in is based on their unique position to observe them. This is not to be underestimated as new papers are still being written based on Voyager data, not only where they are located, but also where they were years or decades ago.  In 2017, the former chairman of the NASA External Planetary Assessment Group, Fran Bagenal, was interviewed in Nautilus. In this interview, she said, "I still analyze Voyager data, believe it or not, we just published three articles on Voyager data taken 33 years ago, and all of us are celebrating the 40th anniversary of Voyager data It was fun, and I realized that some of the data I used to write my diploma thesis in 1979 was not re-analyzed. "
The question is how many future articles will be based on current data in
Nothing Remains Forever
The most famous photos of the Voyager program are the Pale Blue Dot photos (actually a photo series) .We do not receive any more photos from the Voyager cameras But it's almost scary how these spaceships still provide data, unique data, so many decades after they were designed, built and launched, strangely they are like Time capsules of early space exploration technology.
"Both Voyager probes explore regions that have never been visited before, and therefore every day a day of discovery, "said Voyager project scientist Ed Stone, who is based at Caltech. "The Voyager will always surprise us with new knowledge about space."
Nothing lasts forever and one day it will be for the Voyager spacecraft. For people who know the missions and know what they have contributed to the knowledge of humanity, this is a sad day. It's strange to think about everything that happened here on Earth while the two spaceships started their journey.
The good news is that the future spaceships will be building on the work of the Voyager program the tiny IBEX probe. Picture credits: NASA "class =" wp-image-16062 "srcset =" https://www.universetoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/ibex__1.jpg 304w, https://www.universetoday.com /wp-content/uploads/2008/07/ibex__1-249×246.jpg 249w "sizes =" (max-width: 304px) 100vw, 304px "/>
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