It is the end of an era at NASA and for space exploration in general as the Voyager 1 and 2 begin the process of powering down for the final time.
Powered by decaying plutonium, the probes initially promised five years of service which has since extended itself many times over. Even so, many people are holding out hope that the two can hang on until about 2025 when it is estimated their fuel will be spent entirely.
Journeying further than any object so far, the instruments on each are gradually powering down as energy output from the plutonium decreases. Amazingly, the two aren’t out of the solar system yet but in an area known as the heliopause. To count as being officially out of our backyard, Voyager 1 and 2 will need to make it beyond the Oort Cloud which SkyNews reports is a collection of smaller objects still under the influence of the sun’s gravitational pull.
How long should that take?
NASA estimates that Voyager 2 will arrive at the “inner edge” of the Oort Cloud in 300 years with at least 30,000 years needed to finally break out of the solar system. Voyager 1 is 14.5 billion miles from the Earth or 20 hours and 33 minutes traveling at the speed of light while Voyager 2 is 12 billion miles away or 18 hours when traveling at light speed.
SkyNews reminds us that both Voyager probes contain the famous golden records detailing humanity’s journey to the stars. Of course, no discussion about the Voyager missions is complete without recounting the amazing photographs and data they have sent back to us over the years. We’ve found an awesome review of that material at this link over on YouTube as well as this one here.
We have some other photography news for you to check at this link.