The Voyager sensors were launched in 1977. They were supposed to last for four years, but they still boil over 45 years later. They are now running out of power, so NASA should start shutting down the devices to make them last as long as possible.
The power source is radioactive plutonium, and it decreases by about 4 watts per year. There is little left now, but by turning off non-essential devices, NASA hopes to keep in touch with them for a short time until 2030, says Linda Spilker of NASA Scientific American.
In total, such a probe needs 400 watts for instruments and heating, but they can no longer be given. At launch, the systems were able to deliver about 470 watts per probe and instrument, but now deliver about 245 watts.
Not exactly much memory
Some tools are already turned off, either because they failed or weren’t needed. Where the probes are now, for example, there isn’t much to photograph, and there is also a severe lack of planets to look at and atmospheres to measure.
Thus, the tools that must be turned off in the next few years is the beginning of the end. By around 2030, NASA’s Deep Space Network will no longer be able to maintain contact with the two probes.
According to Scientific American, a radio that sends data back to Earth has the same effect as a light bulb in a refrigerator. The signals take about a day to reach Earth and then become so weak that it is almost impossible to pick them up from the background noise from all the other radio sources we have here.
The transmitted data is cached on an eight-track tape recorder, which was the best of the technology in 1977. Each probe has less memory than your car’s electronic door opener, Spilker told Scientific American.
However, after 45 years and ten times as long as planned, both of the band’s players are still in action.
where are they now?
The sensors have very different directions, but both are far from earth. Voyager 1 is now about 156 AU, while Voyager 2 is about 130 AU. The AU corresponds to the distance between the Earth and the Sun, or about 150 million kilometers.
Speed is also respectable: Voyager 1 maintains a speed of 16.9 kilometers per second, or 3.57 AU per year, while Voyager 2 is quite behind at 15.2 kilometers per second or 3.21 AU per year, respectively. This means that the two probes will be the most distant man-made objects for the foreseeable future.
Neither of them has left the solar system yet, but they are now in the so-called interstellar medium, the thin interstellar gas in the galaxy. None of the probes have the correct path to reach our nearest star, Proxima Centauri, but if they did, they would spend just over 75,000 years traveling at the speed they have today.
“Explorer. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Alcohol fanatic. Certified writer. Wannabe tv evangelist. Twitter fanatic. Student. Web scholar. Travel buff.”