What does NASA have in mind for Voyager 2?
Nasa wants to keep the Voyager 2 spaceship running for three more years, even though it has no more power.
The Voyager 2 was sent into space for the first time in 1977. It helped scientists learn more about planets far from Earth. Since more than 45 years ago, the spaceship has been exploring the edges of the sun’s system.
It also gave scientists a chance to look into how the heliosphere, the outermost layer of the sun’s atmosphere, guards Earth from the sun’s dangerous environment.
Nasa was thinking about turning off one of the spacecraft’s five science equipment because it was running out of power. In order to keep it going, scientists cut out heaters and other parts that didn’t need to be there and used up power.
But now, scientists have found a new way to use the power that was saved by a safety feature that controls the voltage of spaceships.
Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said last week, “The change means that a science instrument won’t have to be turned off until 2026 instead of this year.”
The only spacecraft to have gone through the Heliosphere are Voyager 1 and Voyager 2.
Ed Stone had spent more than half of his life working on the Voyager program. He watched as the spacecraft went to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune and made discovery after find.
“It showed how complicated and changing the solar system is. Stone told NPR in 2017 that before Voyager, the only known active volcanoes were on Earth.
“Then we flew by Io, one of Jupiter’s moons, and saw that it has 10 times as many volcanoes as Earth. Before Voyager, the only seas people knew about were the ones on Earth. Then we flew by Jupiter’s other moon, Europa, which has an ocean of liquid water under its icy surface.
The Voyager 2 is 12.3 billion light years from Earth.
Voyager 1 is 14.7 billion miles from Earth and is getting close to the end of its life.
Linda Spilker, the project scientist for the Voyager program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement, “The science data that the Voyagers are sending back gets more valuable the farther they get from the Sun, so we want to keep as many science instruments running as long as we can.”
NASA is also working to keep the Voyager heritage alive. Different groups of officials and experts are coming up with new and ambitious ideas for a new, long-term space study.