NASA will begin shutting down the legendary Voyager space probes launched 45 years ago

Hardware news NASA will begin shutting down the legendary Voyager space probes launched 45 years ago

Nearly 50 years after the project’s official launch and 45 years after launching two probes into space, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are about to retire. We owe them some of the most extensive discoveries in aerospace history and NASA decided to give them an award by letting them in slowly, but surely.

Voyager program, forever and beyond

On July 1, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the official launch of the “Voyager” program, the popular robotic exploration program of NASA (the American space agency) whose main goal is to study the planets outside the solar system. . And we don’t know if it was the release of the Buzz Lightyear movie that prompted NASA to release its usual reserve, but NASA has some announcements for us about two of the most famous explorations in history. in aerospace.

Launched every August 20 and September 5, 1977after and enjoying Apollo 11 to 17 months of programs, the Voyager 2 and Voyager 1 probes were their main target to fly over Jupiter and Saturn and would not have existed for more than 4 to 5 years. 45 years later, they are still there, completing hundreds of missions, sending us thousands of photos, but they are already starting to shrink and NASA is now thinking of giving them their freedom.

NASA will begin shutting down the legendary Voyager space probes launched 45 years ago

If Voyager 2 was the first to mark the spirits by visiting Uranus (1986) then Neptune (1989), the biggest star of the two will undoubtedly remain Voyager 1 which is more than all expected by possible also “travel” more than intended and that remains to this day the only tool in history to reach a place full of mystery called the heliosphere, that region of space where the energy density of the solar wind is greater than the interstellar medium (
Larousse
).

NASA will begin shutting down the legendary Voyager space probes launched 45 years ago

NASA hopes to communicate with Voyager observations by 2030

How have we used space tools for nearly 50 years when they were originally designed to run for 4 to 5 years?

To understand this properly, it is necessary to know that these spacecraft are powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) that generates electricity from heat from the natural decomposition of radioactive materials.. However, while the system worked like a charm for many years, the probes lost about 4 watts of power per year, and NASA had to turn off and tighten some elements to increase it. their lives.

NASA began shutting down the legendary Voyager space probes launched 45 years ago

In 2019, for example, NASA engineers will have to turn off the heating of the cosmic ray subsystem, previously thought that Voyager 2 would not recover, but in the end, even at temperatures of -59 ° C, it was a good done. .

NASA also highlighted the great communication complexity of the probes, such as when it was necessary to restart the thrusters on Voyager 1 in 2017 after 37 years of inactivity … Forwarding a message can take up to… 22 hours between Earth and Voyager 1 and 18 hours with Voyager 2. It is not easy in these situations to be reactive …

NASA will begin shutting down the legendary Voyager space probes launched 45 years agoNASA will begin shutting down the legendary Voyager space probes launched 45 years ago

So with a heavy heart, but filled with joy at all they have brought us, that NASA has decided to gradually stop the operation of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. So far, there are only a few instruments that left. in service (4 for Voyager 1 and 5 for Voyager 2) and the american space agency promises to do everything to take advantage of it, but it shouldn’t go beyond 2030.

The next step for NASA is to return flights to the Moon and then, perhaps, to Red Mars. To eternity and beyond!

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