The Voyager spacecraft have become popstars

Out of this world – The incredible Voyage of the Voyagers

The title of these columns is Attitude for Altitude – and this is nowhere better demonstrated than by two little spaceships that have real attitude – and altitude.

The two Voyager spacecraft are quietly getting on with the job of heading out of our solar system and into deep space. At over 61,000 km/h the two little Voyagers are right up there in the list of the top ten fastest objects, and they have been maintain that speed flying away from Earth for almost 50 years. Both carry the famous “Golden Record,” a 12-inch gold-plated disc containing sounds and images about life and culture on Earth.

The Voyagers unarguably own the record for the flying machines with the greatest range and endurance. Forty-six years ago, on 20 August 1977, NASA’s Voyager 2 launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a Titan III-Centaur rocket. It embarked on a “grand tour” of the solar system that included visits to the Jupiter and Saturn systems and would make it the first spacecraft to visit the ice giants Uranus and Neptune and their moons. 

When they were launched, Jimmy Carter was in the first year of his presidency and Fleetwood Mac was in the charts with Don’t Stop. The two spacecraft took that song to heart and have not stopped ever since, travelling further from Earth than any other man-made object. Voyager 2 is now more 25 billion kilometres away and still they fly on, transmitting from the depths of interstellar space, rebuking every car and computer that profited from built-in obsolescence.

NASA’s rocket scientists are wondering how long they can keep going. There were glum faces at NASA in early August when the wrong command caused the transmission antenna of Voyager 2 to misalign with Earth – and the spacecraft went silent – possibly forever.

However, NASA said it wasn’t panicking. The mission’s scientists believed they had several options to restore communications with the half-century-old probe. And so they did. In an update in early August, NASA said all is now well once again with Voyager 2.

NASA’s Deep Space Network facility in Canberra, Australia, was able to “shout” a command to Voyager instructing the spacecraft to reorient itself into a proper position to facilitate communication with Earth.

It took 18.5 hours for the signal to reach the spacecraft, which is now 20 billion km from Earth. Finally, in the middle of the night, after an anxious wait of 37 hours, Voyager 2 once again started streaming back data.

Voyager 1 and 2 were launched to take advantage of a once-every-176-years alignment in the 1970s that made it possible for spacecraft to take gravity-assisted slingshots from planet to planet across the solar system.

Voyager 1 is currently the farthest spacecraft from Earth at about 24 billion kilometres, while Voyager 2 has travelled more than 20 billion kilometres. Both have now left the solar system and are in interstellar space, making them the only spacecraft to operate beyond the heliosphere, the sun’s bubble of magnetic fields and particles that extends well beyond the orbit of Pluto.

Though it launched second, Voyager 1 was so called because it was to reach Jupiter and Saturn first — in March 1979 and November 1980, respectively — before exiting the plane of the planets where it took the famous “Pale Blue Dot” photo.

Voyager 2 visited four planets: Jupiter in July 1979, Saturn in August 1981, Uranus in January 1986 and Neptune in August 1989.

Voyager’s discoveries are the stuff of legend among planetary scientists, many of whom still rely on the unique images from the spacecrafts’ now antiquated wide-angle and narrow-angle digital cameras.

The probes have taken photos of the volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io, and discovered that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is an Earth-size storm. They studied Saturn’s rings; saw the giant moon Titan’s thick, Earth-like atmosphere; and revealed the tiny moon Enceladus to be geologically active.

Voyager 2 then set off by itself to check out Uranus and Neptune. The spacecraft’s first-ever images of Uranus revealed dark rings, the planet’s tilted magnetic field and its geologically active moon Miranda. Neptune, meanwhile, was also discovered to have rings and many more moons than scientists initially thought. We also got to see Triton, a geologically active moon that is orbiting “backward” and, like Pluto, is now believed to be a captured dwarf planet from the Kuiper Belt. 

In addition to making groundbreaking discoveries, the Voyager mission helped scientists determine what merited deeper exploration. The mission revealed Jupiter to be an incredibly complex planet, thus spurring NASA to launch the Galileo mission in 1989 and the Juno mission in 2011. The Voyager probes’ work also helped inspire the iconic Cassini mission to Saturn.

Voyager 1’s close flyby of Saturn’s largest moon Titan was the catalyst that justified the amazing Cassini mission. Cassini’s Huygens probe successfully parachuted onto the surface of Titan in 2005 and sent back an incredible video. This was the first landing ever accomplished in the outer Solar System and the first landing on a moon other than Earth’s Moon.

Voyager 2 has also been a catalyst for investigations into the role of the ice giant planets — not only in the solar system, but also in distant star systems, since most of the exoplanets found so far are roughly the size of Neptune and Uranus.

The big question is, how much longer will the Voyagers last?

Despite the recent communications near disaster, both the intrepid spaceships are still communicating with NASA’s Deep Space Network (which itself was created to communicate with Voyager 2 at Uranus and Neptune), receiving routine commands and occasionally beaming data and images back to Earth from its 1970s era computers. “We’re looking forward to getting data for probably another five or six years,” Stamatios Krimigis, principal investigator for the Voyager Interstellar Mission, said during a news conference held at COSPAR 22 in July.

To achieve the miracle of keeping these spacecraft alive in the frigid and far reaches of space, NASA is getting creative with the power supply and instruments. Over time, the Voyager team has commanded the probes to turn off instrument heaters and other nonessential systems.

Both Voyagers are nuclear powered, using radioisotope thermoelectric generators. The power pack loses 4 watts per year as the plutonium it relies on slowly decays and its heat is converted into electricity.

Each spacecraft’s power pack carries radioactive plutonium-238. As the isotope decays, it releases energy that is converted into electricity by three radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs). At launch, the RTGs provided each spacecraft with 450 watts of power. Now, they’re producing less than half that amount and their electrical output is decaying by four watts each year. NASA says that it takes about 200 watts to send signals back to Earth, and they only have about five to six watts of power margin on each spacecraft.

In the deep cold soak of outer space, the key challenge is to keep the propellant lines warm above 2 degrees Celsius so the aiming system continues to work.

Voyager 2 has begun using a small backup power reserve, which will enable the spacecraft to keep from shutting down another science instrument until 2026. The power reserve was designed as a safety mechanism to protect the instruments in case the flow of electricity changes significantly on the spacecraft. Now that back-up power is being used to keep Voyager 2’s instruments up and running.

The rocket scientists were thrilled to discover that the instruments recalibrated to become more sensitive in their data collection because some of the detectors operate better when colder.

As the sole extensions of humanity outside the heliosphere’s protective bubble, the two probes are alone on their cosmic treks as they travel in different directions.

Given the age of the two spacecraft it is inevitable that a small failure could ultimately lead to losing communication completely, even if it still has power. But however long Voyager 1 and 2 continue to operate, the Voyager mission is already a massive success. The original mission was to perform flybys of the solar system’s gas planets and their moons and beam back data to Earth — tasks that both spacecraft had completed by 1989.

Now 35 years later, around the mid-to late 2020s, the probes’ scientific instruments will be shut down, and eventually, the spacecraft will go cold and silent — but their journeys into interstellar space will continue indefinitely.

In around 300 years, Voyager 1 and 2 will enter the Oort cloud, the sphere of comets surrounding the solar system. About 30,000 years later, they’ll exit the neighbourhood and silently orbit the centre of the Milky Way for millions of years.

Their scientific work may be almost over, but the Voyager spacecraft have only just begun their journeys into the cosmos. And who knows – maybe some clever lifeform will find and play Voyagers’ gold plated records and look back to where they came from.


  1. Rastreador de teléfono celular – Aplicación de rastreo oculta que registra la ubicación, SMS, audio de llamadas, WhatsApp, Facebook, fotos, cámaras, actividad de Internet. Lo mejor para el control parental y la supervisión de empleados. Rastrear Teléfono Celular Gratis – Programa de Monitoreo en Línea.

  2. La mejor aplicación de control parental para proteger a sus hijos – monitoriza en secreto GPS, SMS, llamadas, WhatsApp, Facebook, ubicación. Puede monitorear de forma remota las actividades del teléfono móvil después de descargar e instalar apk en el teléfono de destino.

  3. I’ve been surfing online more than 3 hours these days, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is lovely worth sufficient for me. In my view, if all webmasters and bloggers made good content as you probably did, the net might be a lot more useful than ever before.

  4. I used to be very pleased to find this internet-site.I needed to thanks in your time for this excellent learn!! I definitely having fun with each little bit of it and I’ve you bookmarked to check out new stuff you weblog post.

  5. obviously like your website however you need to test the spelling on several of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I in finding it very bothersome to inform the reality however I¦ll definitely come again again.

  6. Hey! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok. I’m definitely enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

  7. I have been browsing online more than 3 hours nowadays, but I never found any attention-grabbing article like yours. It is lovely worth sufficient for me. In my view, if all web owners and bloggers made just right content material as you probably did, the internet can be a lot more useful than ever before.

  8. There’s noticeably a bundle to know about this. I assume you made sure good points in features also.

  9. What Is Sugar Defender? Sugar Defender Drops is a powerful friend for people who want to control their blood sugar levels

  10. magnificent points altogether, you simply gained a new reader. What would you suggest in regards to your post that you made some days ago? Any positive?

  11. Very efficiently written article. It will be beneficial to anyone who utilizes it, including yours truly :). Keep doing what you are doing – for sure i will check out more posts.

  12. Heya i’m for the first time here. I found this board and I find It really useful & it helped me out much. I hope to give something back and aid others like you aided me.

  13. I’ve recently started a web site, the information you provide on this site has helped me tremendously. Thanks for all of your time & work.

  14. But wanna comment that you have a very decent internet site, I love the design it really stands out.

  15. Hey there! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site? I’m getting tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers and I’m looking at options for another platform. I would be fantastic if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  16. Thanks for sharing superb informations. Your site is so cool. I am impressed by the details that you?¦ve on this web site. It reveals how nicely you understand this subject. Bookmarked this web page, will come back for extra articles. You, my pal, ROCK! I found simply the information I already searched everywhere and just could not come across. What an ideal website.

  17. I relish, result in I discovered exactly what I used to be looking for. You have ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

  18. Wow! Thank you! I continually needed to write on my website something like that. Can I implement a part of your post to my website?

  19. Some truly interesting points you have written.Helped me a lot, just what I was searching for : D.

  20. Great tremendous issues here. I am very happy to peer your article. Thanks a lot and i am looking forward to contact you. Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?

  21. What Exactly is Tonic Greens? Tonic Greens is a dietary supplement that has proven effective in helping many people manage the herpes virus and boost their immune systems without adverse effects.

  22. Hello my friend! I wish to say that this article is awesome, nice written and include almost all important infos. I would like to see more posts like this.

  23. Wonderful work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the internet. Shame on Google for not positioning this post higher! Come on over and visit my web site . Thanks =)

  24. I’m often to running a blog and i actually recognize your content. The article has actually peaks my interest. I am going to bookmark your site and maintain checking for new information.

  25. I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you design this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz reply as I’m looking to construct my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from. thanks a lot

  26. For online gamblers, a Friday Bonus holds special significance as it sets the tone for an entertaining and rewarding weekend. Lucky Friday Bonus 1xBet is designed to add an extra layer of excitement and boost players’ chances of winning. With this promotion, 1xBet offers generous rewards and benefits to its loyal users. Every Friday, 1xBet rewards its active players with a bonus worth up to a whooping 150 EUR. When you make your qualifying deposit, you will automatically receive a bonus equal to 100% of your deposit amount. To qualify for the bonus, you will need to deposit at least 1 EUR. The bonus will be credited to your account as long as your personal information is complete and your phone number is activated.  With the Happy Friday 1xBet Bonus, players can enjoy various perks such as bonus funds, free spins, enhanced odds, or other exclusive rewards. These additional resources empower players to take more calculated risks, try new strategies, and potentially unlock significant winnings. The generous nature of the bonus ensures that players feel valued and motivated to continue their betting adventures with 1xBet.
    It happens. Hit the “Login to Ask the community” button to create a question for the PayPal community. 1xBet App GuideIf you are looking for more information then visit our 1xBet App GuideCLAIM 1XBET PROMO CODE The PayPal Cash Mastercard is issued by The Bancorp Bank pursuant to a license by Mastercard International Incorporated. The Bancorp Bank; Member FDIC. Read Time: 2 min This means that the fraudster will not have the ability to hack into the individual’ s account and access to settlement information. Thanks to this, 1xBet online wagering ends up being as safe and comfy as feasible. Moreover, specialist customer support team will pertain to the rescue at any moment. You can contact them via email or on the internet chat on the website. Representatives of the business will rapidly comprehend the trouble and will be able to provide expert aid.

  27. What Is Puravive? Puravive is an herbal weight loss supplement that supports healthy weight loss in individuals.

  28. Hello, you used to write fantastic, but the last several posts have been kinda boring… I miss your tremendous writings. Past few posts are just a little bit out of track! come on!

  29. Good post. I learn one thing more challenging on totally different blogs everyday. It is going to at all times be stimulating to learn content from different writers and follow a bit one thing from their store. I’d favor to use some with the content on my blog whether or not you don’t mind. Natually I’ll provide you with a hyperlink on your web blog. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *