NASA Voyager 2 Powers Down for Interstellar Space.

Share

NASA Powers Down Voyager Systems to Save Recourses for Terminal Stage.

This week, Voyager 2 reached a point in its decades-long mission where some tough decisions need to be made. Recently, officials decided to power down the NASA Voyager 2’s cosmic ray instrument. The move comes as part of a new strategic plan to keep the Voyager mission going. NASA announced the new plan earlier this week, which will allow for the best use of mission resources.

Both spacecraft get their power from radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs). However, the farther away they get, the less power the generators can produce. In fact, it’s miraculous that the spacecraft are still performing at all, considering the temperatures they face. They tested safely down to negative 45 degrees Celcius here on Earth.  Now, however, they face temperatures of almost negative 60 degrees, and at least five of Voyager 2’s systems are still giving us data.

Voyager Still Serving Humanity Over Thirty Years Later.

In September of 1977, just over three months after George Lucas captured the imagination of my entire generation with the release of Star Wars, NASA launched its twin Voyager spacecraft.  The two probes were originally intended to study the moons around Jupiter and Saturn. Since then, they’ve traveled farther than any other man-made object. Furthermore, they’ve arguably inspired more awe in the last forty-two years than George Lucas has (and I’m a Lucas defender!).

When the probes had finished their missions in the space around Jupiter and Saturn, NASA extended their mission. In the subsequent decades, both probes have given us a veritable dragon’s hoard of scientific gold regarding the workings of our solar system.  Now, they’ve left our solar system behind and are preparing for the long journey to whatever fate awaits them in interstellar space.  

Inspiring Awe

The Voyager project has accomplished so much more than we originally asked of it.  Here’s Carl Sagan talking about its significance decades ago.

Nowadays, Voyager’s cameras have been turned off.  However, it still returns incredibly significant data about our solar system and the deep space beyond. Four instruments on Voyager 1 still function, along with five on Voyager 2.  There will come a day win NASA powers down Voyager 2’s other systems, but it won’t be soon. In fact, according to Voyager Project Scientist Ed Stone, “…every day is a day of discovery.”  This is because each day, both Voyager spacecraft are farther out than we’ve ever been, and they’re still sending data.

The Spirit of Exploration and Tenacity. 

Voyager represents the best of humanity. It represents our drive to explore. To reach out and see things we’ve never seen before so that we might understand them. More than that, though, the mission is now a symbol of our tenacity.  These tiny spacecraft launched at a time when the best available computing power we had could barely give us “Pong.” Now, 42 years later, they still give us valuable insights about not just the universe, but about our place in it. Godspeed, Voyagers, Godspeed.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.