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Voyager and Mission Longevity

4 Dec 2017, 16:28 UTC
Voyager and Mission Longevity
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Sometimes it’s helpful to look back at the original intent of a space mission. Extending missions is all about continuing to do good science, and it’s often a major benefit of missions as successful as Voyager. But consider the Voyager parameters when the two craft launched in 1977. The plan: Study Jupiter and Saturn, as well as their larger moons and Saturn’s rings, with spacecraft that were built to last five years.
That primary mission, of course, was completed and led on to Voyager 2’s flybys of Uranus and Neptune, and Voyager 1’s crossing into the interstellar medium, a 40-year mission still returning data. Voyager 2 will make a similar crossing within the next few years.

I’ve said a lot about Voyager in this space and have even advocated a final thruster burn for each when the two craft reach the end of their energy supplies, in a purely symbolic trajectory change that would bring them closer to nearby stars than they otherwise would travel (see Voyager to a Star).
This goes back to a Carl Sagan notion that Jim Bell also discussed in his book The Interstellar Age (Dutton, 2015). The two stars in question are Gliese ...

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