The Voyager Spacecraft – Earth’s Farthest-Flung Ambassadors

Voyager spacecraft are our greatest ambassadors into space. Now exploring beyond our solar system’s boundaries, both probes have enough fuel left over to continue transmitting scientific information until 2025.

The Voyagers were designed to take advantage of an unlikely alignment among outer planets that enabled them to study two, four and eventually all their unique moons and rings – though their success required innovative engineering as well as luck.

What is a Voyager?

In the 1970s and ’80s, Earth’s twin Voyager spacecrafts captured public imagination as our first representatives to outer planets such as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Passing by each planet they took photos and collected data that greatly advanced planetary science.

Voyager 1 and 2 successfully completed their encounters with planets before entering the heliosheath – an area beyond our solar system where Sun’s magnetic field and plasma particles mix with interstellar wind – on April 10, 2012 after popping free of their giant bubble that the Sun created around itself and leaving Earth for good in August 2012.

As they travel through interstellar space, Voyagers will continue sending data back to Earth as their instruments can be switched on or off as needed until 2025 when limited power requires deactivating each one gradually. They also carry coded messages aimed at alien civilizations who may discover them over thousands of years’ journey – it could take that long before either comes within sight of another star system!

Voyager 1

Voyager 1 was launched into space on September 5, 1977 by NASA as one of its twin voyager spacecraft. Since then it has visited outer planets such as Jupiter and Saturn before entering interstellar space and carrying with it a golden record containing images and sounds that depict Earth life diversity should any far future humans come in contact with the craft.

Voyager 1 features a 10-sided bus housing scientific instruments and electronics, along with a high-gain antenna shaped like a satellite dish on top. JPL sends out commands through this antenna that help the spacecraft orient itself; each command typically takes over 22.5 hours from Earth to reach Voyager 1.

Since November, a computer issue has prevented Voyager engineers in Southern California from receiving telemetry data back from its spacecraft – leaving engineers unaware of its performance or any possible solutions to fix it quickly. But the Voyager team remains hopeful a solution can be found shortly.

Voyager 2

Voyager 2 travels even farther from Earth than its sister Voyager 1. After passing Jupiter and Saturn, it passed Uranus and Neptune as well, collecting valuable scientific data along the way. Voyager 2 entered interstellar space in 2012 while Voyager 1 crossed this threshold three years later in 2018.

Both voyagers are powered by nuclear energy produced by radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs). Pellets of plutonium dioxide decay naturally over time to release heat that produces electricity; enough power remains for an extended mission duration but their output gradually decreases with age.

RTGs are located on two booms that extend off of the main bus, and these serve as communication mechanisms between Earth and spacecraft. Each boom features high-gain antennas resembling satellite dishes which point directly towards Earth no matter where in space the spacecraft may be positioned. They receive instructions and pass back data collected back to mission operators on Earth.

Voyager’s Golden Record

The Voyagers carried with them a Golden Record featuring 116 photographs and audio selections selected by a panel chaired by Carl Sagan. This selection included sounds such as surf, wind and thunder as well as musical selections from different cultures and eras – plus greetings in fifty-five different languages from President Carter and UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim!

Voyager spacecraft have provided scientists with valuable data regarding interstellar conditions, including an improved understanding of the heliosphere — an enormous field of charged particles created by our sun that surrounds itself – as well as evidence that cosmic rays are three times stronger outside its confines.

Oberg and his colleagues are currently tracking the spacecrafts’ trajectories forward, studying the environments they will encounter, and estimating their chances of making it to extraterrestrial life forms and remaining legible after being dropped on interstellar spaceships. He adds that even if Voyagers make it all the way out to the edge of our Milky Way galaxy, they could potentially get knocked into an even larger galaxy by being knocked by another entity along their journeys.

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