In the summer of 1977, the US space agency, “NASA”, launched the two spacecraft “Voyager” 1 and 2, on a 4-year mission to explore and photograph the planets Saturn and Jupiter, but the mission extended to other planets and lasted 45 years and still exists, but the energy is decreasing on board the two vehicles. It called for stopping the operation of some of its systems in the hope that the two vehicles would continue to operate until 2030, so what did they reveal? And how did they continue throughout these decades to reach the farthest point outside the solar system? And what will happen after they are disconnected in the future?
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite into space, called “Sputnik.” Since then, the era of space exploration has begun in a frantic race between the two superpowers at the time, the United States and the Soviet Union. And in 1965, a PhD student in aeronautics at Caltech, Gary Flandreau, noticed that the four largest planets in the solar system were approaching a rare alignment mode, which repeats every 176 years, and that by the mid-1970s these four planets would be like a celestial necklace like pearls.
This coincidence meant that a spacecraft could be launched, getting a boost in speed from the gravitational force of each giant planet it passed, as if it were being pulled by an invisible wire that broke at the last second, which would reduce the flight time between Earth and Neptune by one. 30 years to 12 years old. Thus, NASA began building two spacecraft to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In the summer of 1977, the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes were launched, which are identical in every detail, 15 days apart between the first and the second.
After nearly 45 years in space, the two probes are still working, sending data and dazzling images to Earth every day from outside the solar system, having lasted longer than any other spacecraft in history, and they crossed into interstellar space, becoming the first objects created by humans. Humans travel to this point, even though the mission was originally scheduled to last only four years.
Early in their journeys, four decades ago, the two Voyager spacecraft provided researchers with the first stunning close-up views of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, revealing active volcanoes and rift ice fields on worlds astronomers thought would be inert and cratered like ours. “Voyager 2” became the first spacecraft to fly over the planet Uranus, and after three years it passed over the planet Neptune, becoming the only spacecraft to have made such trips, and even after reaching a distance of more than 12 billion miles from Earth, it continued to delight and confuse scientists Astronomy and space, passionate about planets and stars, made a series of unexpected discoveries about these unknown regions.
And while Voyager’s glorious flights finally ended, for the past three years, NASA has turned off heaters and other nonessential components and harnessed the two spacecraft’s remaining energy stores to extend their unprecedented flights until roughly 2030, with a great end. A project that far exceeded the expectations of scientists and researchers, according to the “Scientific American” website.
While the planets were cooperating with the Voyager flights, the US Congress was not initially. After Flandro’s initial report on the project, NASA developed ambitious and very expensive plans for a so-called “grand tour” that would send up to five spacecraft. Or sensors to the four giant planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, in addition to Pluto, but Congress refused this, and eventually approved a mini version of the “Grand Tour”, to send two spacecraft over four years to Saturn and Jupiter only, however, engineers began NASA has been somewhat stealthily designing vehicles capable of withstanding the rigors of a much longer mission, as they hoped that once the probes established themselves, their itinerary would be extended to Uranus, Neptune and beyond.
While NASA failed 12 times when it tried in the early 1960s to send a series of spacecraft to the moon to survey future landing sites for manned missions, before it finally succeeded, the Voyager trajectory was a new area in terms of engineering and navigation in deep space, The probes had to travel through the “asteroid belt”, which was widely debated over whether spacecraft could pass it without being torn to pieces, but in the early 1970s, the Pioneer 10 and 11 probes flew through it unscathed. Mostly empty space, which paved the way for Voyager to take off without fear.
Compared to the technological progress that humans have reached now, the “Voyager” equipment is very old, but nonetheless it remained excellent, and did the job entrusted to it with amazing efficiency, as each Voyager vehicle was the size of an old Volkswagen Beetle, And both of them needed some smart devices on board, so NASA engineers equipped the vehicles’ computers with about 69 kilobytes of memory, which is less than the capacity of the current smartphone, however, what data collected through the spacecraft’s instruments was stored on tape recorders. Eight paths before being sent back to Earth by a 23-watt transmitter, to compensate for the transmitter’s twice as much power as a refrigerator lamp, engineers loaded Voyager with 12-foot-wide dish antennas to send and receive signals.
The two Voyager spacecraft were designed as fixed platforms for their own cameras, using red, green and blue filters to produce full-colour images, as well as other instruments to measure space particles, ions, wind speed, plasma waves and magnetic waves. It is still about three or four months away from the planet, while Voyager 1 reached Jupiter in March 1979, 546 days after its launch, and Voyager 2 arrived, via a different path, in July ) of that year, but the first images of the two planets’ moons before arrival were stunning.
Four Planets Surprises
There was an assumption that all moons in the solar system would be similar to some extent, and no one expected the wild diversity of moons that Voyager revealed around Jupiter and Saturn, as well as the discovery of active volcanoes, as the only active volcanoes known to man at the time were located on Earth, but “Voyager” suddenly revealed a moon with volcanic activity 10 times the activity of Earth’s volcanoes, specifically over Io, where columns of it fly 30 times the height of Mount Everest.
“Voyager” took more than 33,000 images of Jupiter and its moons, as scientists and specialized researchers felt that each image brought a new discovery, most notably that Jupiter has rings, and Europa, one of Jupiter’s 53 moons, is covered by a crust Cracked ice estimated to be more than 60 miles thick, and as scientists predicted, when Voyager 1 left Jupiter’s system, it reached a speed of 35,700 miles per hour with the help of the gravity of the huge planet, and without it, they would not have been able to overcome the gravity of the sun and reach interstellar space. .
Next, Voyager 1 blasted through Saturn’s rings to take thousands of hits from dust grains, then bypassed Titan, shrouded in orange smog, to head north beyond the planetary plane, while Voyager 2 alone continued its way towards Uranus and Neptune, In 1986, it found 10 new moons around Uranus, and added the planet to the list of ringed planets, but only four days after “Voyager 2” approached the planet Uranus itself, its discoveries were overshadowed by the explosion of the space shuttle “Challenger” shortly after its launch.
Three years later, the Voyager 2 spacecraft measured the highest wind speeds of any planet in the solar system after it traveled about 2,980 miles above Neptune’s azure methane atmosphere, with winds reaching 1,000 miles per hour, and Voyager 2 also found the largest moons Neptune, a “Triton”, has become one of the coldest places in the solar system, with a surface temperature of −235°C, and the moon’s rovers have recorded ice volcanoes spewing nitrogen gas and powdery particles five miles out of its atmosphere.
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Voyager 2 images of Neptune and its moons were set to be the last to be taken by either spacecraft. The two spacecraft are able to reach interstellar space, where the mission has been renamed “Voyager Interstellar”, and plans to turn off the cameras came on the understanding that there will be no imaging operations after Neptune, as there is only an infinite void and very distant stars.
But astronomer Carl Sagan, who was a member of the imaging team, urged NASA officials to have Voyager 1 send out a final series of images, and on Valentine’s Day 1990, the probe pointed its cameras at the inner solar system and took 60 final shots. The most famous of these is an image that Sagan dubbed the “faint blue dot,” a picture of Earth from a distance of 3.8 billion miles, which remains the most distant image of our planet ever taken.
in deep space
Now, the two Voyager spacecraft are so far away from Earth that a radio signal traveling at the speed of light takes roughly 22 hours to reach Voyager 1, and just over 18 hours to reach Voyager 2, and their only link to Earth is the space network. NASA’s Deep Deep Systems, which are tracking complexes scattered around the world that allow uninterrupted communication with spacecraft during the Earth’s rotation.
As the two Voyager spacecraft recede from Earth in space and time, their signals are fainter than ever due to the hustle of radios, televisions and cell phones, so it becomes difficult to hear the small whispers from the spacecraft. Dim, the funding has been extended until 2030, when it won’t be easy to bid farewell to these flagships once they have reached the heliosphere.
The way to the future
However, Voyager has faced some problems that engineers and scientists are trying to overcome. Voyager 2 now has five working instruments remaining, and Voyager 1 has four, all powered by a device that converts heat from radioactive decay of plutonium into electricity, but with lower Producing energy at about four watts per year, NASA had to turn off the heater in the cosmic ray detector, which was crucial to determining that it crossed the heliosphere.
Despite the temperature dropping around 70 degrees Celsius, outside any tested operating limits, the two vehicles continued to operate incredibly, yet the last two devices inside Voyager to be turned off likely were a magnetometer and another to measure Plasma is intended to provide power for communication devices.
While it is possible that “Voyager” will lose its ability to communicate with Earth after 2030, but this does not necessarily mean that its mission will end, the flights of the two vehicles will continue, and “Voyager 1” is expected to pass by our nearest neighboring star, “Proxima Centauri” within 16,700 A year from now, followed by “Voyager 2” 3,600 years later and after that they will continue to orbit the galaxy for millions of years, and at some point in their journey, they may be able to deliver a final message not by radio, and if it is received, the recipients will not be humans but extraterrestrials other.
The message carries another type of ancient 1970s technology recorded on gold-plated brass, to give some sense of the world where Voyager came from. It includes 115 images of children, dolphins, dancers, sunsets, greetings recorded in 55 different languages, and a range of sounds including wind, rain and crickets. Night, human heartbeat, mother kissing her baby, 90 minutes of music including world music.
“Voyager” also carries a message from Jimmy Carter, who was the president of the United States when the spacecraft was launched, saying, “We sent this message to the universe, and we hope one day, after we solve the problems we face, to join a community of galactic civilizations, This record represents our hope, determination and goodwill in a vast and wonderful world.”