Both Voyager spacecraft are outfitted with 10 science instruments, including two cameras capable of taking detailed images of planets and their rings, magnetic fields and the interaction between light as a wave and particles.
Voyager 1 returned a haunting portrait of Earth in 1990 that Carl Sagan called “Pale Blue Dot.” Since then, its data continues to astound scientists.
It was launched in 1977
NASA reports that Voyager probes have provided scientists with new insights into our solar system. Their data on Jupiter and Saturn’s rings, satellites, magnetospheres and interstellar space borders has given scientists new knowledge. Interstellar space limits are determined by solar wind outflow through magnetic fields created by our Sun, creating an envelope known as the heliosphere around our Solar System that encompasses it all.
These Voyager probes each carry a 12-inch golden phonograph record containing images and sounds of Earth along with symbolic instructions on how to play it, as a time capsule and interstellar message. A committee led by Carl Sagan selected images, songs and symbols that would be recorded onto each Voyager probe.
Voyager 1 and 2 were launched as part of the Mariner Jupiter-Saturn mission, later known as Voyager 1, in 1977, later becoming known by their new names – Voyagers 1 and 2, after being officially designated. Both spacecraft are still operational today despite having shut down many instruments over time, taking pictures of outer planets and rings beyond our solar system, such as Earth from 3.7 billion miles away (known as “Pale Blue Dot” picture published by Voyager in 1990).
It is a nuclear-powered spacecraft
Voyager 1 and 2 have been traversing interstellar space for 45 years, collecting data that no other spacecraft ever could. Both spacecraft continue transmitting, with their plutonium power sources expected to last through to early or mid 2020s.
These probes are equipped with radioisotope thermoelectric generators, which convert the natural decay of plutonium into electric power that can then be used to power spacecraft science payloads and facilitate learning more about the outer edges of our solar system’s heliosphere. Scientists are using these machines to expand their understanding of this frontier area of our universe.
They have already sent back high-resolution images of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune as well as information about their rings and magnetic fields. Furthermore, they detected cosmic rays outside our solar system for the first time – evidence that solar wind interaction with interstellar space exists – helping scientists better understand how our solar system interacts with its surroundings. These discoveries will assist scientists with better understanding the relationship between our solar system and its environment.
It is a long-distance spacecraft
Voyagers were equipped with messages for any alien civilization that might discover them in the future, which were preserved on gold-plated phonograph records. These contained pictures and sounds from Earth – such as raindrops falling, kisses being shared between lovers, or playing “Johnny B. Goode.” Additionally, each record contained symbolic directions on its cover for playing it properly.
The twin spacecraft are still conducting observations in the outer Solar System, now billions of miles from its center. Currently they are within the heliosphere – an insulating layer protecting them from solar wind that includes magnetic field components and charged particles from our sun’s magnetosphere – but are expected to leave within 2018.
Each spacecraft is powered by 19 watts of radioisotope thermoelectric generators and features sophisticated fault protection systems to keep them operational when communication delays between Earth and Voyager probes extend beyond several hours. Scientists have utilized Voyager data alongside old observations in order to gain further insight into our sun and its heliosphere.
It is a probe
The twin Voyager spacecraft have recently passed Pluto and are exploring regions of space where no human has ever ventured before, such as interstellar space filled with dilute material from nearby stars that exploded millions of years ago during supernova explosions. While they may seem far away, scientists continue to receive scientific updates via satellite transmission from Voyagers.
These probes have performed flybys of Jupiter and Saturn, gathering images and studying their magnetospheres, rings, atmospheres and magnetopauses. Additionally they visited Uranus and Neptune before going further out with gravity-assisted swingbys for Pluto to reduce power requirements.
NASA had planned for, yet their journeys have exceeded NASA’s predictions, creating unexpected challenges as their ageing becomes apparent. Recently, Voyager 1’s attitude articulation and control system (AACS) failed, corrupting telemetry data used to communicate back with Earth via its antennas.