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Latest Findings from Voyager 2

7 Nov 2019, 19:17 UTC
Latest Findings from Voyager 2
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It’s heartening to consider that the two Voyager spacecraft, though built for a 4 ½ year mission, have continued to function ten times longer than that. This fact, and data from other missions, will help us get a handle on longevity in spacecraft systems as we contemplate pushing out beyond the heliosphere with a spacecraft specifically designed for the job. Mission longevity is mysterious for it often seems to surprise even the designers, who would like to have a more concrete sense of how to ensure operations continue for decades.
Voyager 2 broke Pioneer 6’s record of 12,758 days of operation way back in 2012, but we can also consider spacecraft like Landsat 5, launched in 1984 and carrying two instruments, the Multispectral Scanner System (MSS) and the Thematic Mapper (TM). Managed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Landsat 5 completed over 150,000 Earth orbits and sent back more than 2.5 million images of Earth’s surface, with operations lasting almost three decades. Design life for Landsat 5 was estimated at three years, but it became, as Guinness World Records labels it, the ‘longest-operating Earth observation satellite.’
While the Landsat accomplishment is significant, the two Voyagers have actually taken us ...

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