45 years later, the Voyager spacecraft is still exploring

US space agency NASA celebrates the longest Expedition in its history. The mission includes two spacecraft – Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 – that were launched in 1977.

When it was first launched, NASA officials said, the Voyager mission was expected to last five years. But Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are still traveling and collecting valuable scientific data from the most remote places in space.

The two spacecraft were launched within weeks of each other in the summer of 1977. Last week marked 45 years.The tenth Voyager 1 launch anniversary, on September 5 of that year.

Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 are designed to explore Jupiter and Saturn. Both spacecraft have successfully conducted studies of these planets.

Subsequently, Voyager 2 completed its first-ever close-up observations of Uranus in 1986, and Neptune in 1989. And flights involving the four planets became known as Voyager’s “Grand Tour.”

Then the two spacecraft began a new mission to explore distant regions of space. In 2013, NASA announce Voyager 1 has crossed the boundary that separates our solar system from interstellar space.

The term “interstellar” means “interstellar”. Scientists say interstellar space begins where the Sun’s continuous flow of particles and its magnetic field stops.

NASA said Voyager 2 first entered interstellar space in 2018. The spacecraft was more than 17.7 billion kilometers from the sun at the time. Voyager is the only spacecraft to date to explore interstellar space.

The two explorers studied how the interstellar medium interacts with the solar wind – the constant flow of charged particles released by the Sun. They also provided data about the heliosphere, which is a kind of protection bubble about our solar system.

This archive photo taken at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on March 23, 1977 shows engineers preparing for the Voyager 2 spacecraft ahead of its launch later that year. (Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The heliosphere is created by the solar wind and shaped and altered by interstellar conditions. The actual boundary of the solar system – the place where the solar wind ends and interstellar space begins – is called the heliosphere.

NASA says the Voyager spacecraft has provided researchers with new information about interstellar space. For example, they found out cosmic rays It is about three times more intense outside the heliosphere than it is deep inside the heliosphere.

Scientists combined Voyager observations with data from new missions “to get a more complete picture of our sun and how the heliosphere interacts with interstellar space,” NASA He said.

In this Aug. 20, 1977 photo, a Titan/Centaur 7 rocket stands ready at the launch pad with the 1,800-pound Voyager spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  The spacecraft departed from Cape Canaveral to explore Jupiter and Saturn.  (AP Photo/

In this Aug. 20, 1977 photo, a Titan/Centaur 7 rocket stands ready at the launch pad with the 1,800-pound Voyager spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft departed from Cape Canaveral to explore Jupiter and Saturn. (AP Photo/

last year scientists mentioned Voyager 1 recorded a “buzzing” noise associated with waves detected by small amounts of gas in the quasi-vacuum of interstellar space.

Nicola Fox is director of the Solar Physics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC. She said in a statement that Voyagers’ work provided valuable information about the sun, as well as the influence of the sun throughout the entire solar system. “For the past 45 years, the Voyager missions have been so integrated in providing this knowledge and helping us change our understanding of the Sun and its influence in ways that no other spacecraft can do.”

All Voyager is powered by a thermoelectric An energy system containing plutonium. When plutonium decays, its heat output decreases and Voyager loses electricity. To make up for this, NASA said the team turned off all non-essential systems and deemed some of them essential one day. These include heaters that protect still-operating appliances from the extreme cold in space.

But the space agency reported that all five devices whose heaters have been turned off since 2019 are still working. NASA scientists continue to question how Voyagers can continue to operate at temperatures far lower than they were designed for.

This 1990 color-processed image of Jupiter was produced by the USGS from a Voyager image taken in 1979. Colors have been enhanced to highlight detail.  Light-colored areas of ascending clouds alternate with groups of dark and dark

This 1990 color-processed image of Jupiter was produced by the USGS from a Voyager image taken in 1979. Colors have been enhanced to highlight detail. Light-colored areas of ascending clouds alternate with groups of dark and dark

Linda Spilker is the deputy project scientist for the Voyager mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. She said that even after 45 continuous years of space exploration, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 “still provide humanity with observations of Unknown province.”

I’m Brian Lynn.

Brian Lane wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from NASA, The Associated Press, and Reuters.

Test – 45 years later, the Voyager spacecraft is still exploring

Test - 45 years later, the Voyager spacecraft is still exploring

Start the quiz to find out the answer

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The words in this story

Expedition n. An important assignment, usually involving travel

bubble -n. A gas ball surrounded by another substance

cosmic rays – n. High-energy particles that move through space at nearly the speed of light

integrated characteristic Note or very important

thermoelectric n. Electricity production at different temperatures

Unknown characteristic Brand new and never seen before

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