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The Voyager, two antiques that celebrate 45 years exploring space

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  • Launched in 1977, they are NASA’s longest operating mission and the only spacecraft to have explored interstellar space.

  • They have three million times less memory than a smartphone and transmit 38,000 times slower than a 5G connection

  • They are the only probes that have explored interstellar space.

NASA’s twin Voyager probes have become, in a way, in time capsules of his time: each one has an eight-track tape player to record data, they have some 3 million times less memory than modern mobile phones and transmit data about 38,000 times slower than a 5G internet connection.

However, the Voyager probes remain at the forefront of space exploration. Managed and operated by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, Are the only probes that have explored interstellar spacethe galactic ocean through which our Sun and its planets travel.

ambassadors of humanity

Both spacecraft are also ambassadors of humanity in space. each one carries a Golden disc containing images of life on Earth, diagrams of basic scientific principles, and audio that includes sounds of nature, greetings in various languages, and music. The gold-coated records serve as a cosmic “message in a bottle” for anyone who might come across them. At the speed with which gold decays in space and is eroded by cosmic radiation, records will last more than a billion years.

beyond expectations

Voyager 2 launched on August 20, 1977, followed by Voyager 1 on September 5. both probes They traveled to Jupiter and Saturn with Voyager 1 moving faster and reaching them first. Together, the probes revealed much about the solar system’s two largest planets and their moons. Voyager 2 also became the first and only spacecraft to fly near Uranus (in 1986) and Neptune (in 1989).offering humanity extraordinary views and information about these distant worlds.

Voyager 1 and 2 have accomplished a lot since their launch in 1977. This infographic highlights the main milestones of the missionNASA/JPL-Caltech

While Voyager 2 was making these flybys, Voyager 1 was heading toward the edge of the heliosphere. Emerging from it in 2012, Voyager 1 discovered that the heliosphere blocks 70% of cosmic rays or energetic particles created by exploding stars. Voyager 2, after completing its planetary explorations, continued to the edge of the heliosphere, exiting in 2018. Combined data from the twin spacecraft from this region have challenged previous theories about the exact shape of the heliosphere.

“Today, as both Voyagers explore interstellar space, are providing humanity with insights from uncharted territory” says Linda Spilker, Associate Voyager Project Scientist at JPL. “This is the first time we have been able to directly study how a star, our Sun, interacts with particles and magnetic fields outside our heliosphere, helping scientists understand the local neighborhood between stars, changing some of the theories about this region and providing key information for future missions.”

A long trip

Over the years, the Voyager crew has had to get used to its ‘aches’. Sometimes they have even had to turn to retired colleagues to solve problems or have had to study old manuals for a technology that was obsolete decades ago.

Every Voyager works with a radioisotope thermoelectric generator which contains plutonium, which emits heat that is converted into electricity. As the plutonium decays, the heat production decreases and the Voyagers lose electricity. To compensate for this loss of power, the team that operates them has already shut down all their non-essential systems and also some that were once considered essential, including the heaters that protect the still-functioning instruments from the frigid temperatures of space. All five instruments that have had their heaters turned off since 2019 are still workingdespite being well below the lowest temperatures at which they were tested.

Voyager 1 recently began experiencing a problem that caused status information about one of its onboard systems to become garbled. Despite this, the system and spacecraft continue to function normally, suggesting that the problem is with the production of the status data, not the system itself. The probe continues to send back science observations as the engineering team tries to fix the problem. or find a way to fix it.

“The Voyagers have continued to make amazing discoveries and inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers,” said Suzanne Dodd, Voyager project manager at JPL. “We don’t know how long the mission will continue, but we can be sure that it will provide even more scientific surprises as it moves away from Earth.”

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