There is an opinion that Voyager probes are the best,what the representatives of our species did. Voyagers left Earth from Cape Canaveral in 1977. Since then, the devices transmitted to scientists a huge amount of data about the solar system. It is thanks to the Voyagers that we know so much. In December 2018, the Voyager 2 probe entered the interstellar space. But despite the fact that both devices are still sending us data, the Voyager equipment is aging and communication with them may be interrupted at any time.
During the arms race between the USSR and the USA, eachthe side strove to get ahead of the other. In the 1970s, the era of spacecraft robotics began. The first automatic interplanetary station “Luna-16” was launched by the USSR in September 1970. The device successfully reached the Moon and returned to Earth, delivering lunar soil to scientists.
NASA's response was not long in coming. In 1972, the Pioneer 10, the first spacecraft that did not need to be controlled, took off into space. The Pioneer reached Jupiter and photographed the gas giant. Five years later, Voyager robotic vehicles with a gold plate attached to the body set off into space.
For each of the plates, according to the idea of outstandingastrophysicist and popularizer of science Karl Sagan, phonographically recorded information about our civilization. This is done in case there are reasonable forms of life on the way of Voyager.
And do you think that the launch of Voyagers is the greatest achievement of mankind? Share your opinion in our Telegram chat.
What is happening with Voyager today?
Initially, the goal of the Voyagers was to study Jupiterand Saturn. As a result, the devices sent to Earth data on four giant planets and their satellites. For 42 years, Voyagers have moved away from Earth. But even going beyond the heliosphere, the probes continue to transmit new data to scientists.
However, the equipment is aging. As a result, every day can be the last for Voyagers. This is because the engines of the devices are worn out, and the generators generate about 40% less electricity than at start-up.
Rescue Mission "Voyagers"
In July of this year, NASA developed a wholeprogram for maintaining the performance of the probes. To support Voyager on the go, scientists have to make difficult decisions. Using radio waves, they transmit different commands to the devices. So, Voyager 2 received instructions to switch to backup engines, which the probe has not used since 1989. The engines help Voyager is in a steady state, and those that used the probe gradually failed.
Broken Voyager engines can causethat the device will not be able to hold the antenna towards the Earth. And this is the only point of contact between the probe and us. Voyager 1 also switched to spare engine last year.
However, engines are not the only problem. Heaters are installed on the devices, thanks to which the probe does not freeze in open space. But recently, engineers turned off the Voyager 2 heaters. The decision was made after much thought - turning off the heaters will allow the probe to conserve energy economically. The shutdown was made after the information that Voyager left the solar system was confirmed.
Voyager: the greatest of space missions
A possible cause of the current difficulties isthat no one thought of interstellar travel in 1977. NASA engineers were aimed at studying the planets of the solar system. Both devices simultaneously reached Jupiter, after which Voyager 1 went to Saturn and its satellites. Most scientists were interested in Titan. It was planned that if, for some reason, Voyager 1 does not collect enough data, Voyager 2 will be sent after it. When both probes successfully completed the task, they headed for Uranus and Neptune.
Soon after, the engineers thought about saving energy. The first step was to turn off the cameras, as photographing the scattered stars was not necessary.
After 37 years of inactivity, Voyager 1 engines revived again
Voyagers' flight is influenced by many factors. In 2012, after Voyager 1 left the heliosphere, a peculiar bubble of the solar wind enveloping our solar system, the cosmic situation changed dramatically. This led to the shutdown of a number of devices as they were not needed. After all, Voyagers today prey on cosmic rays, magnetic fields and other detectable phenomena in outer space.
And yet, sooner or later it’s time to let goVoyagers in free swimming. In the end, at some point, the transmitters with which we communicate with Voyagers will fail. Or backup engines, with which the devices I work today, will also fail. There may be many options, but together with NASA engineers, we wish the Voyagers a good path.
What do you think, how long will they work?