NASA Hacks Voyager 2 to Keep The 45-Year-Old Probe Studying Interstellar Space

The fate of Voyager 2 has been delayed as NASA discovered a means to hijack a backup power source to keep the spacecraft operating until 2026.

During their 45-year space mission, Voyagers 1 and 2 have provided significant scientific data.

The probes are currently 12 and 14 billion kilometers from Earth out in interstellar space. This is farther than any spaceship or other artificial object has ever traveled.

According to Linda Spilker, project scientist for the Voyager spacecraft at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, the science data that the Voyagers are returning becomes more significant the farther away from the sun they go.

"We are definitely interested in keeping as many science instruments operating as long as possible."

For 45 years, the probes have been in motion.

In 1977, Voyager 1 and 2 launched one month apart. Initially, the probes were planned to go on a four-year journey to travel by Saturn and Jupiter.

They were launched carrying a "golden record" that included data that would enlighten extraterrestrials about Earth.

However, the probes continued to perform better than anticipated, and NASA continued to extend their missions, first to travel to Neptune and Uranus, then to travel farther than any other probe: past the heliosphere.

A bubble of particles and magnetic fields that radiates from the sun is called the heliosphere. Because it shields us from cosmic radiation from the galaxy, this sphere is especially crucial for Earth.

Since the probes are currently outside of this heliosphere, their measurements offer previously unobtainable details about the bubble's characteristics, such as its shape and its protective function.

The antique probe's power system was hijacked by NASA.

Generators that turn heat from decaying plutonium into energy power the probes. NASA engineers have forced to turn off non-essential equipment, including the probes' cameras and heaters, to save power as this energy source becomes less reliable.

However, as Voyager 2 was approaching the end of its energy supply, NASA engineers devised a cunning trick that would help it live a little while longer.

They discovered a technique to redirect electricity from a safety feature meant to activate in the event that the probes' circuit fails due to voltage fluctuations.

"Variable voltages pose a risk to the instruments, but we've determined that it's a small risk, and the alternative offers a big reward of being able to keep the science instruments turned on longer," Suzanne Dodd, Voyager's project manager at JPL, stated in a news statement.

After a few weeks of satellite tracking, it appears that the new strategy is effective.

It could be used by NASA aboard Voyager 1. Voyager 1 hasn't been consuming as much power as Voyager 2 since one of its instruments had before malfunctioned.

The space agency has stated that the decision to turn down Voyager 1's equipment would be taken the following year.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.