NASA has done what can be called a “lifehack” on its spacecraft Voyager 2, which has enabled all of the instruments on board to be in operation for a few more years. Voyager 2 left Earth over 45 years ago, and previously NASA stated that Voyager would likely stop using all five instruments and sending back observations to Earth this year.
However, researchers at NASA have redirected power from one of the spacecraft’s safety systems so that it can be used by the instruments on board Voyager 2, which is believed to enable all of Voyager 2’s instruments to be in operation until 2026. NASA writes in a press release:
In search of a way to avoid shutting down a Voyager 2 science instrument, the team took a closer look at a safety mechanism designed to protect the instruments in case the spacecraft’s voltage – the flow of electricity – changes significantly. Because a fluctuation in voltage could damage the instruments, Voyager is equipped with a voltage regulator that triggers a backup circuit in such an event. The circuit can access a small amount of power from the RTG (radioisotope thermoelectric generator) that’s set aside for this purpose. Instead of reserving that power, the mission will now be using it to keep the science instruments operating.–jpl.nasa.gov
Voyager 2’s impressive journey.
Voyager 2 is currently 20 billion kilometers from Earth and, along with its twin spacecraft Voyager 1, is the only spacecraft still active outside our solar system’s heliosphere. Originally, Voyager 2’s mission was planned to last for four years and to observe Saturn and Jupiter during a flyby. Since then, NASA has extended Voyager 2’s mission several times, and the spacecraft has traveled farther and farther from Earth. Since 2018, the spacecraft has been in interstellar space.