Voyager 2 Is Back Online And Gathering Data Again!

From the craft itself, to what it is doing
in space, to the new information is has discovered, join me as we explore how the Voyager 2 is
back online and gathering data again! Space is huge, and because of that, we need
help exploring it, even when it’s just exploring our solar system. It took us an incredible amount of time just
to find and understand part of what makes our solar system special. From the 9 (not eight!) planets, to the moons
of the planets, to the sun, and more. But to really venture into deep space and
understand what’s out there, we needed not one, but two probes known as Voyager (enter
Star Trek reference here). Voyager 1 is a probe that humanity sent out
to observe the universe at large, and it’s currently well past Pluto and has shown us
many things about our solar system. In 2017, it was set at around 138 AU’s from
our planet. AU means “Astronomical Unit”, which in this
case means the distance from the Earth to the Sun. So 138 AU’s means that it’s 138 times far
than the Earth is from the sun right now. That’s a really big number. Over 12 billion miles to be exact. That’s the farthest anything from man has
traveled in space. One of its crowning achievements was a photograph
showing a set of sunbeams, and in one of those sunbeams was earth. It was a dot. A dot in a grander scale photograph of our
solar system. That’s how small we are in the scale of our
system when you look from the outside in, we are a dot. An epic dot, but a dot no doubt. As for Voyager 2, despite it launching BEFORE
Voyager 1 (by 16 days), it was set on a similar mission to explore the solar system. Albeit via a different route that took it
past Neptune and Uranus. The point here is that these two probes are
the farthest things that humanity has sent into the solar system. They have traveled incredible distances and
are still revealing things about our solar system that continue to both boggle the mind
and astound us. Voyager 2 is now in Interstellar Space, a
crowning achievement in and of itself. But that doesn’t mean it’s been all smooth
sailing, far from it in certain ways In February 2020, it was noted by NASA that something
had gone wrong with Voyager 2, and as such they had problems getting it to work properly. Given that the probe is in space that humanity
hasn’t touched, and will likely not touch themselves for a long time, this is to be
expected. However, a few days after that announcement,
they revealed to the world that they had stabilized the problems on the craft and got it back
up and working. But what exactly caused the problems of the
probe? Well, that would be a failed maneuver. Voyager 2 was supposed to do a rotation move
that would shut off some of its instruments and thus conserve power. However, for whatever reason, the probe didn’t
do it, and because of that, the scientific instruments that were on at the time…remained
on…which made it so that the probe eventually shut down prematurely. Not something you want to happen in the reaches
of interstellar space when ANYTHING can happen in the blink of an eye. This failure could’ve been catastrophic, because
you see, to ensure that the probe would have a long life in space, it was given the bare
essentials in many aspects, including its power supply. Believe it or not, despite being in space
for over 42 years the Voyager 2 doesn’t have the biggest power supply, it actually uses
radioactive fuel to produce heat, and thus power. But to conserve that power, it shuts off non-essential
systems when it’s not using them. So for the move to fail caused a serious drain
in power, and likely sent NASA into quite a frenzy as they tried to make it work once
again. Thankfully for them, on February 5th, 2020,
they were able to connect with Voyager 2 once again, and confirm that it was up and running
and able to continue its scientific mission in regards to examining and studying interstellar
space. “Voyager 2 has returned to normal operations
following the anomaly on Jan. 25, 2020,” NASA officials wrote in a statement. “The five operating science instruments, which
were turned off by the spacecraft’s fault protection routine, are back on and returning
normal science data.” To give you some context as to how dramatic
that is in terms of time and space. At present, it takes a signal from NASA to
the Voyager 2 (or vice versa) about 17 hours. Which means that Voyager 2 is indeed one of
the farthest man-made object in space right now. It’s almost as far in space as Voyager 1. And that also means that if NASA asked Voyager
2 something, and it replied, it would take about a day and a half for NASA to get its
answer. That makes it 122 times greater in distance
from the Earth than the sun is. Or 122 AUs. Before we continue to explore the Voyager
2 and its “rebirth” in space, be sure to like the video and subscribe to the channel, that
way you don’t miss ANY of our weekly videos! I’m sure at this point you’re wondering just
how far this can go in terms of Voyager 2 and its mission. After all, it’s been out in space for 42 years,
surely it has a limit, right? And you are correct. There is indeed a limit to what the Voyager
2 can do (as this glitch in the system has proven definitively), but in terms of how
long it can continue in space and collecting data, the over under is about 5 years. But think about that, that’s 5 more years
of data. That’s 5 more years of collecting information
about a part of space that humanity hasn’t even grasped before, or gotten deep enough
scans of before. That five years may seem small in the grand
scale of its life, but even one of those years could have a major impact on how we observe
the solar system at large. But given its age, you might wonder, “what
exactly does it have left to study the universe with?” A good question. At present, (as of March 2020), the Voyager
2 probe has 5 scientific instruments on board that are still functioning, and thus can help
inform NASA and others about the universe. It has a device that can scan magnetic fields,
it has two instruments that can help figure out things about cosmic rays and particles,
and the final two instruments are able to detect and study plasma. “Why are these instruments important?” Well, it’s because of where Voyager 2 is,
Interstellar Space. While we have some idea of what is going on
in our own solar system, once you reach interstellar space, all bets are off. We can look at that region of space via our
satellites and probes, but to know what’s going on there, you need to have someone or
something on the inside. And that is the Voyager probes. There are a lot of questions of what happens
in this area of space, mainly because it’s directly outside the Heliosphere, or the area
of space that our own sun affects and doesn’t have another star affecting it. Thus why it’s an “in between” area of the
galaxy, and space is full of these “dead zones” if you will. Which is why we need to study them. In fact, this was one of the biggest reasons
we knew that the Voyager 2 had entered Interstellar Space. As the probe had been studying the particles
of the sun, and the cosmic rays of space as it traveled through our solar system. And when it reached interstellar space, the
particles given off by the sun plummeted, while the cosmic rays rose in great number. Signifying that the reach of the sun had been
outpaced, and the rays that fill up space were now in full view. The probe has done wonders for NASA, but there
is a catch to its “fixing”, and that is that its timing couldn’t have been more perfect. How so? Simple, NASA is looking to make some upgrades,
and it can’t do that without stopping communication with the probe until 2021. NASA is upgrading the 230-foot-wide (70 meters)
radio dish in Australia that mission team members use to send commands to Voyager 2,
which again launched in 1977 and entered interstellar space in November 2018. Voyager 2 will be on its own until that work
is done in January 2021, though the spacecraft will still be able to beam science data home. This is very important to note for the reason
that we outlined earlier. Mainly, the probe is not at full capacity
in terms of its power, and this glitch that recently occurred proved that the probe may
not be as responsive as it once was. So if something like this happens again, it’ll
be drifting in space on its own for who knows how long until NASA can get this dish up. Despite the potential risks this entails,
the team at NASA aren’t too worried it appears: “We put the spacecraft back into a state where
it will be just fine, assuming that everything goes normally with it during the time that
the antenna is down,” Voyager project manager Suzanne Dodd, who also serves as director
of the Interplanetary Network Directorate at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena,
California, said in a statement Wednesday (March 4). “If things don’t go normally — which is
always a possibility, especially with an aging spacecraft — then the onboard fault protection
that’s there can handle the situation,” Dodd added. The Australian radio dish is part of the Deep
Space Network (DSN), the system NASA uses to communicate with its many space probes. There are three DSN sites — one each in
California, Spain and Australia. Each site has multiple big antennas. For example, the Australian complex, which
lies about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Canberra, also features three 111-foot-wide
(34 m) radio dishes. The 111-footers can receive science data,
but only the 230-foot one has the special transmitter required to beam commands to Voyager
2, NASA officials said. “But what about other dishes? Surely there has to be something that can
contact the probe in the next 11 months, right?” Well…no. The California and Spain DSN sites are no
help in this regard, either. Voyager 2, which is currently more than 11
billion miles (17 billion kilometers) from Earth, is moving downward relative to our
planet’s orbital plane and, therefore, can be hailed only from the Southern Hemisphere. So yeah, this is a bit of a sticky wicket
despite the good front that NASA is putting on. But this is very much of a “short term goal
for a long-term gain”. Because as noted, the Voyager 2 is only going
to be online for another 5 years at the maximum. But with this new dish, it will help all FUTURE
plans with probes and satellites and maybe even spacecraft that journey into the reaches
of interstellar space. “Obviously, the 11 months of repairs puts
more constraints on the other DSN sites,” Jeff Berner, the Deep Space Network’s chief
engineer, said in the same statement. “But the advantage is that when we come back,
the Canberra antenna will be much more reliable.” “The maintenance is needed to support the
missions that NASA is developing and launching in the future, as well as supporting the missions
that are operating right now,” Dodd said. So what’s the best case scenario here? Well, quite simply, the best case plan is
that the probe just chugs along in interstellar space for the next 11 months until NASA can
get the satellite dish up and operational. Is that likely to happen? The odds are good. A glitch like this hasn’t happened to this
extent before, and thus, it’s plausible that it could just keep going without issue. However, the opposite is also true. This glitch could be a sign of more things
to come in terms of issues. It cannot be stated enough that both of the
Voyager probes are past their “use by date”. The people operating the probes have been
improvising in order to keep them operational as they are right now. Which is why Voyager 2 is only running 5 scientific
instruments instead of all the ones it has equipped, they need to conserve power. But, if another glitch occurs, then the odds
aren’t good that NASA will be able to save it in time when the 11 months are up, and
thus the probe will likely either be lost in some fashion or destroyed. It simply depends on what is going on with
the probe when/if the next glitch occurs. Should the Voyager 2 be lost, it would be
a terrible loss for the scientific community given all that it has offered over the years. And of course, barring some great advancement
in technology, it would take an incredibly long time (like 40 years or so) to get another
probe or entity to that point where the Voyager 2 died in order to pick up where it left off. Not impossible, just time consuming. Which is another reason why NASA is trying
so hard to keep the Voyager 2 alive at all costs. Because if it dies, they’ll be stuck in regards
to trying to collect more data from that region of space. So it goes without saying that the next 11
months of Voyager 2’s journey may just be the most important of its tenure so far. Because it could be a new beginning, or a
definitive end. Thanks for watching everyone! What did you think of this look at Voyager
2, its reaches into space, and the problems it’s been having? Do you think that Voyager 2 will last much
longer? Or do you think that it’ll burn out within
the next year? Let me know in the comments below, be sure
to subscribe, and I’ll see you next time on the channel!

8 thoughts on “Voyager 2 Is Back Online And Gathering Data Again!

  1. Analogue technology still working with the help of a nuclear isotope power , remember watching the launch as a kid ! You go girl !!!!!

  2. It is always a great pleasure to have news about Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 after more than 40 years of precious and continuous service.. I hope that Voyager 2 will survive another five years and provides us more data on interstellar zone. Very nice video and many thanks.

  3. How does shutting down instruments save power on a nuclear powered spacecraft?

    The radioactive breakdown of isotopes is a quantum effect. That decay is not changed by the demand for power of a system that is not entangled with it. The power output slowly over time diminishes, (as the radioactive element decays), but is not "saved" if it is not used… unless there is a battery that stores the unused energy in the system. If so, a battery would probably be near the end of it's potential life, and charging could result in thermal runaway. So perhaps the batteries were being taken offline and the system run by thermal nuclear alone.

    If that is the case… why not say it? That is a far better explanation than pretending nuclear thermal power systems behave like batteries.

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