Voyager probes were launched into space in 1977 to study the outer planets. However, the work of both in recent decades has exceeded the projections of the NASA engineers who are in charge.
In fact, the two probes became the only human-made objects to travel beyond the borders of our solar system. Voyager 2 arrived in interstellar space in 2018, where its twin, Voyager 1, has been since August 2012.
Voyager 2 was launched on August 20, 1977 from Cape Canaveral, that is, this Friday marks 44 years since its mission began.
When compared to Voyager 1, which was designed to reach Jupiter and Saturn quickly, Voyager 2 was on a slower trajectory that would take it to Saturn until 1981.
However, this slower path gave him the possibility that, if he kept running, he could try the so-called “Grand Tour” and head towards Uranus and Neptune.
Thanks to this probe, scientists were able to draw a map of the surface of Ganymede and Callisto, the moons of Jupiter. It also delivered vital information about a massive storm that had ravaged this planet, known as the Great Red Spot.
Later, the probe reached Saturn, where it obtained incredible images and new measurements about the planet and its moons.
A historical approach
This good performance of Voyager 2 motivated the engineers of the NASA to program for her a much more ambitious mission: to get closer to Uranus and Neptune, the outermost planets of our solar system and that have never been visited before by a spacecraft (at least of human origin).
Thus, after passing through Saturn, the space probe took four years to approach Uranus, reaching 81,500 kilometers on January 24, 1986. Voyager 2 was able to send unpublished images and measurements of this planet, in addition to revealing the existence of 10 moons and two new rings.
On August 25, 1989, the probe reached Neptune, where it also discovered new moons and rings. Thanks to the information provided by the spacecraft, the researchers recorded winds of up to 1,100 kilometers per hour on the planet’s surface, as well as the existence of giant storms in its atmosphere.
Perhaps most impressive of all, this space probe and Voyager 1 are still operational. Voyager 2 is more than 18 billion kilometers away, but some of its instruments have already stopped working.
Either way, it is expected to continue operating until 2025, which would exceed the projections and plans of the team in charge of its manufacture.