NASA’s twin Voyager probes are nearly 45 — and facing some hard decisions
NASA’s twin Voyager probes were launched in 1977, and are now nearly 45 years old. They are facing some hard decisions, as their aging hardware is beginning to fail.
The Voyagers are currently in what is known as “extended mission mode,” where they are powered down to bare minimums to conserve energy. They are only powered up when there is something specific that needs to be done, such as communicating with Earth or taking measurements.
As the Voyagers’ hardware continues to age, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep them operational. In the next few years, we may have to make the decision to shut them down completely.
It is an incredible achievement that the Voyagers have lasted this long.
Voyager 1 data mystery, NASA relies on slow, long-distance conversation
In December 2004, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft made history when it became the first man-made object to leave our solar system. Now, more than 13 years later, the spacecraft is still going strong, but it’s about to embark on a new mission: helping us solve a mystery about our home planet.
For the past few years, scientists have been trying to figure out why the plasmasphere surrounding Earth – a region of space filled with charged particles – is shrinking. This is a big deal because the plasmasphere acts as a shield, protecting us from harmful space weather.
The problem is that the plasmasphere is too far away for us to study directly.
NASA’s Voyager spacecraft carry golden records loaded with music and photos, to explain our world to aliens
Since 1977, NASA’s Voyager spacecraft have been on a journey to explore the outer reaches of our solar system and beyond. Each spacecraft is equipped with a golden record, which contains a wealth of information about our world and its inhabitants. This includes music, photos, and recordings of natural sounds and human speech.
The idea behind the golden records is to provide aliens with a snapshot of life on Earth, in the event that either of the Voyager spacecraft are ever found by intelligent lifeforms. It’s a way of saying, “Here we are, this is who we are, and this is what we have to offer.”
Who knows what the future holds? Perhaps one day an alien civilization will stumble upon one of our Voyager spacecraft.
NASA’s Voyager spacecraft speed
NASA’s Voyager spacecraft is one of the fastest man-made objects in existence, capable of reaching speeds of over 150,000 kilometers per hour. Launched in 1977, Voyager 1 is currently the farthest man-made object from Earth, having traveled over 20 billion kilometers from our planet. Its twin, Voyager 2, is not far behind, having traveled over 17 billion kilometers. Both spacecraft are currently on trajectories that will take them out of our solar system and into interstellar space.