NASA’s Voyager Spacecraft Still Sending Data After 40 Years

Posted: Aug 19 2017, 1:44pm CDT | by , Updated: Aug 19 2017, 1:46pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 

NASA’s Voyager Spacecraft Still Sending Data after 40 Years
Credit: NASA/JPL
 

The twin spacecrafts are the most distant human-made objects in space

After 40 years in space, NASA’s Voyager probe is still exploring solar system and continues to communicate with ground stations daily.

The mission, consisting of two spacecrafts, was launched in 1977 and its primary purpose was to study Jupiter and Saturn. Voyager 2 then headed toward Uranus and Neptune after meeting all the initial scientific objectives and it is still the only spacecraft to reach all four outer planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Voyager 1, on the other hand, left Saturn in November 1980. On August 25, 2012, it crossed the heliosphere to become the first and only human-made object to have entered interstellar space. Voyager 2 is expected to enter interstellar space in the next few years.

Voyager 2 departed from Earth on August 20, 1977 while Voyager 1 was launched a couple of weeks later in September 5. These are the longest-lived spacecrafts and they were able to reach those regions where no spacecraft has gone before. 

Voyager 1 arrived at Jupiter in 1979. With that, the mission started exploration of outer solar space. Their most fascinating discoveries include first active volcanoes beyond Earth, on Jupiter's moon Io, doznes of new moons, evidence of a subsurface ocean on Jupiter's moon Europa, the most Earth-like atmosphere in the solar system, on Saturn's moon Titan, icy moon Miranda at Uranus and geysers on Neptune's moon Triton.

“I believe that few missions can ever match the achievements of the Voyager spacecraft during their four decades of exploration,” said Thomas Zurbuchen from NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD). “They have educated us to the unknown wonders of the universe and truly inspired humanity to continue to explore our solar system and beyond.”

Even though these spacecraft have left the planets a long time ago and neither will come close to another star until 40,000 years from now, they continue to send back observations on our solar system and improving our understanding of outer planets. 

“None of us knew, when we launched 40 years ago, that anything would still be working, and continuing on this pioneering journey," said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist based at Caltech.. "The most exciting thing they find in the next five years is likely to be something that we didn't know was out there to be discovered.”

Currently, both Voyager spacecrafts are at more than 10 billion miles from Earth. The mission is expected to beam back observations until around 2030 when researchers will turn off its scientific instrument due to insufficient electric supply. However, they will continue to travel along their trajectories at their present speed of more than 30,000 mph and will complete an orbit within the Milky Way every 225 million years.

 

 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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