Forty-five years ago, on August 20, 1977, NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard the Titan III-Centaurus rocket, to begin the “grand day” of the solar system. trip,” which includes visits to the Jupiter and Saturn systems, and will make it the first spacecraft to visit the ice giants Uranus and Neptune and their moons.
Voyager 2 Now 12.1 billion miles (19.5 billion kilometers) from Earth, and still sending back data about the distant and unknown heliopause, scientists are beginning to wonder how long the iconic space probe can continue to operate.
Designed to take advantage of the calibration every 176 years in the 1970s, which allowed the spacecraft to take Gravity Assisted Slingshot from one planet to another solar system, the Voyager mission consists of two probes. Voyager 2 was the first to launch, Voyager One Two weeks later. Both carry the famous “golden record“A 12-inch gold-plated copper plate containing sounds and images depicting the diversity of life and culture Earth.
Now more than 14.5 billion miles (23.3 billion kilometers) from Earth, Voyager 1 is the furthest man-made object from Earth. But Voyager 2 is arguably more iconic because of its incredible multi-decade journey to giant planets.
related: Celebrate Voyager’s 45th Anniversary with These Stunning Solar System Images (Gallery)
Voyager’s “Grand Tour”
Although it’s a second launch, Voyager 1 is so called because it’s about to arrive Jupiter and Saturn The first time – in March 1979 and November 1980 – before leaving the plane of the planet “Light Blue Dot” photo. Voyager 2 visited four planets: Jupiter in July 1979, Saturn in August 1981, Uranus January 1986 and Neptune August 1989.
“Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 both provided a huge legacy for planetary exploration,” says Jonathan Lunine, a planetary scientist and physicist at Cornell University who is studying Juneau, Europa Clippers and James Webb Space Telescope mission, tell Space.com. “Not only in what they have accomplished in science, but also in proving that it is really possible to explore outer solar system There are several spaceships. “
What did the Voyager probe reveal?
Voyager’s discoveries are legendary among planetary scientists, many of whom still rely on unique images from spacecraft’s wide- and narrow-angle cameras.Probe finds volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Aiothe discovery of Jupiter’s big red dot An Earth-sized storm, the gas giant was found to have a faint halo.they learned Saturn’s rings; saw a huge moon titan Thick Earth-like atmosphere; and reveals tiny moons Enceladus Geologically active.
Voyager 2 then visited Uranus and Neptune individually. The spacecraft’s first image of Uranus revealed dark rings, the planet’s tilted magnetic field, and its geologically active moon Miranda. Meanwhile, Neptune was also found to have rings and more moons than scientists initially thought.we have to see too Tritona geologically active satellite that runs “backwards” and looks like Plutonow thought to be a captured dwarf planet Kuiper belt.
Voyager as a catalyst
In addition to making groundbreaking discoveries, the Voyager mission has helped scientists identify which ones are worth exploring further.The mission revealed that Jupiter is an extremely complex planet, prompting NASA to launch Galileo The 1989 mission and the 2011 Juno mission.Voyager probe work also helps inspire iconic Cassini Saturn mission.
“Voyager 1’s close flyby of Titan was the catalyst for Cassini’s exciting mission to Saturn and its Huygens probe,” Luning said.The Huygens probe landed on Titan’s surface in 2005 and was sent back an incredible video.
Voyager 2 is also a catalyst for studying the role of ice giants — not only in solar system But also in distant star systems, because most exoplanet The ones found so far are roughly the size of Neptune and Uranus.
Voyager and NASA today
NASA has spent decades tracking Voyager missions, and those efforts continue today.space agency dragonfly The mission will reach Saturn’s largest moon Titan in 2034, while the Europa Clipper will begin studying Jupiter’s oceanic moon, first imaged by Voyager, in 2030. In April, the National Academy of Sciences’ Planetary Science Decade Survey recommended NASA sends $4.2 billion Uranus Orbiter and Probe The mission is to uncover the mysterious ice giant planet and its moons in the 2040s.
This is the latest mission as a direct result of Voyager 2’s brief visit to the Uranus system in January 1986. ‘ axis to sunThat makes it unlike other planetary flybys, where the probes are able to visit the moon one by one. “Voyager 2 gets very brief images from these moons, so they’re largely unexplored,” Lunine said. Say.
Especially Ariel and Miranda considered sea world Therefore, Uranus orbiters and probes will be specifically targeted. “It’s been 45 years since Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 launched, and now we’re finally talking about the Uranus orbiter and probe missions,” Luning said. “It seems like a long time because these missions take a long time to conceive, fund, build, launch and execute, but it’s all from the interesting peek we got from Voyager 2.”
How long will Voyager last?
Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 still work with NASA’s Deep Space Network (It was itself created to communicate with Voyager 2 at Uranus and Neptune), receives routine commands and occasionally transmits data to Earth. “We’re still getting data from Voyager,” Stamatios Krimigis, principal investigator for the Voyager 1 and 2 probes and the Voyager interplanetary mission, said in a July press conference at COSPAR 22. “We’re looking forward to getting data that may be another five or six years.”
Around mid to late 2020s, the probe’s science instruments will shut down completely, and eventually, the spacecraft will be cold and quiet — but their journey into interstellar space will continue indefinitely. “My motto is, I want to be here after Voyager dies,” said Krimigis, who is in her 80s. “But I’m not sure that will happen.”
In about 300 years, Voyager 1 and 2 will enter Oort Cloudrange comet around the solar system.After about 30,000 years, they will leave the vicinity and orbit the center of the earth quietly Milky Way millions of years.
Their scientific work may be coming to an end, but the Voyager spacecraft is just beginning their cosmic journey.
follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.