The Voyager probes have left the solar system. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The long-lived spacecraft went into fault protection mode last week after unexpectedly drawing too much power.
Currently situated a whopping 11.5 billion miles from Earth, Voyager 2 is now so far away that diagnosing and repairing any fault remotely has become a major challenge.
Whenever a command is issued, it takes a whole 34 hours for engineers to receive a response.
This was the reality faced by NASA recently when the spacecraft went into fault protection mode after inadvertently drawing too much power due to two major systems running at the same time.
The probe is powered by radioisotope thermoelectric generators which have been slowly running down over the last few decades. If the power drops too low, the spacecraft will not have enough to keep its vital systems working, resulting in vital fuel lines freezing and breaking.
If that happened, it would no longer be possible to communicate and the mission would be over.
Fortunately in this case however NASA engineers were able to successfully shut down the system that was drawing too much power and the probe's science instruments have since been re-enabled.
Launched in 1977, both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 have traveled further from the Earth than any other man-made object in history and remain fully operational despite 40 years of traveling through space.
Their original mission to visit the four gas giants was made possible by a rare planetary configuration that happens only once every 175 years - an opportunity that NASA couldn't afford to miss.
The fact that both probes have kept going for so long is nothing if not remarkable.
Source: Universe Today | Comments (9)