Vacationers 1 and a couple of have the excellence of being in area for 42 years and nonetheless in enterprise. And though they’re 18 billion kilometers from the Solar, they nonetheless have scientific worth. However they’re operating out of power, and if NASA desires them to proceed to be even longer, they’ve selections to make.
The issue of power
The difficulty of power is turning into increasingly more essential for vacationers. Not solely do their scientific devices require power, however they need to additionally keep heat within the icy atmosphere of area. The pair of spacecraft has no photo voltaic power: it could not be attainable so removed from the Solar. They use thermoelectric mills with radioisotopes (RTG) for his or her power.
Every of the Voyager probes has three RTGs and makes use of plutonium 238 as a gasoline supply. When this isotope disintegrates, it produces warmth that’s transformed into electrical power. Every Voyager generated 470 watts at 30 volts DC, however over time, it degrades. Not solely does the gasoline run out frequently, however the thermocouples used within the system degrade over time. In 2011, the 2 Voyagers produced just below 270 watts, which is about 76% of the ability they began with.
Cue the nostalgia.