A new plan for keeping NASA's oldest explorers going

phys.org | 10/5/2018 | Staff
Frost123 (Posted by) Level 3
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With careful planning and dashes of creativity, engineers have been able to keep NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft flying for nearly 42 years—longer than any other spacecraft in history. To ensure that these vintage robots continue to return the best science data possible from the frontiers of space, mission engineers are implementing a new plan to manage them. And that involves making difficult choices, particularly about instruments and thrusters.

One key issue is that both Voyagers, launched in 1977, have less and less power available over time to run their science instruments and the heaters that keep them warm in the coldness of deep space. Engineers have had to decide what parts get power and what parts have to be turned off on both spacecraft. But those decisions must be made sooner for Voyager 2 than Voyager 1 because Voyager 2 has one more science instrument collecting data—and drawing power—than its sibling.

Discussions - Science - Team - Mission - Managers

After extensive discussions with the science team, mission managers recently turned off a heater for the cosmic ray subsystem instrument (CRS) on Voyager 2 as part of the new power management plan. The cosmic ray instrument played a crucial role last November in determining that Voyager 2 had exited the heliosphere, the protective bubble created by a constant outflow (or wind) of ionized particles from the Sun. Ever since, the two Voyagers have been sending back details of how our heliosphere interacts with the wind flowing in interstellar space, the space between stars.

Not only are Voyager mission findings providing humanity with observations of truly uncharted territory, but they help us understand the very nature of energy and radiation in space—key information for protecting NASA's missions and astronauts even when closer to home.

Mission - Team - Members - Voyager - Ray

Mission team members can now preliminarily confirm that Voyager 2's cosmic ray instrument is still returning data, despite...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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