Nasa is shutting down the Voyager space probes after 44 years

Voyager Space Probe

The probes launched 45 years ago, in 1977, and have pushed the boundaries of space exploration (Picture: Nasa)

It’s the end of an era as Nasa prepares to shut down the Voyager probes, which made it deeper into space than any manmade object in history.

Both probes launched in 1977 with Voyager 2 launching two weeks before Voyager 1 on September 5.

More than a decade later, the epic journeys of these probes are due to come to an end as the American space agency starts switching off their systems, as reported by Scientific American.

The probes launched 45 years ago have pushed the boundaries of space exploration going beyond their initial mission.

Nasa had previously said that the Voyagers ‘were destined—perhaps eternally—to wander the Milky Way’. But the radioactive plutonium-powered probes are losing energy by about 4 watts a year.

EMBARGOED TO 1500 TUESDAY MAY 31 Undated handout photo issued by NASA of Neptune seen from Voyager 2, as scientists have explained why, despite having much in common, Uranus and Neptune have very different appearances. Issue date: Tuesday May 31, 2022. PA Photo. New research, led by Professor Patrick Irwin at the University of Oxford, suggests a layer of haze on both planets is behind the different hues. See PA story SCIENCE Uranus. Photo credit should read: NASA/JPL/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

Neptune seen from Voyager 2 (Credits: PA)

Now Nasa has made the decision to reduce power on the probes which could extend their life span a few more years till about 2030.

It’s still as feat as initial projections had expected the Voyager mission to last just four years.

‘We’ve done 10 times the warranty on the darn things,’ Ralph McNutt, a physicist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, told Scientific American.

The probes’ primary purpose was to fly by Jupiter and Saturn which they did in two years. After successfully completing their initial mission, they just kept going deeper into space and sending back images of our solar system from afar.

In 1990, the Voyager 1 sent back the iconic ‘Pale Blue Dot’ picture, showing the Earth against the cold, massive expanse of space taken 3.7 billion miles away from our sun.

Pale Blue Dot

The ‘Pale Blue Dot’ picture shows the Earth against the cold, massive expanse of space taken 3.7 billion miles away from our sun (Picture: Nasa)

In 1998, Voyager 1 became the farthest human-made object in space — 6.5 billion miles from Earth.

The probes are now 12 billion and 14.5 billion miles away from Earth and counting, according to Nasa’s live tracker.

After 2030, Voyager will likely lose contact with Earth but both probes carry a 12-inch, gold-plated record that carries information from Earth. This includes 115 images, greetings in 55 different languages, sounds of the wind, rain, the human heartbeat and 90 minutes of music.

In another 20,000 years, the probes will pass the nearest star, Proxima Centauri, with this time capsule of human life.

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