10 Cool Facts About The Voyager 2 Space Probe
1977 was such an important and wildly productive year for NASA, looking back, they launched two of the most successful space probes in its history. The two twin space probes that still continues to impress and shock people are the Voyager 1 Space Probe and the Voyager 2 Space Probe.
Check out this article for more info on the Voyager 1 Space Probe.
The Voyager 2 Space Probe was launched back in August of 1977 by NASA aboard the now historic rocket, Titan Centaur IIIE. The Voyager 2 Space Probe was designed to conduct a close-up study of the outer planets such as (the gas giants) Jupiter and Saturn and (the ice giants) Uranus and Neptune.
The amazing Voyager 2 Space Probe was launched 16 days prior to its twin space probe brother; the Voyager 1 Space Probe.
Whereas the Voyager 1 Space Probe would reach the outer (gas giant) planets Jupiter and Saturn before the Voyager 2 Space Probe; Voyager 2 was designed and expected to take a different path resulting in a longer trajectory, thus reaching these marvelous planets later in time.
Few people know that the primary mission of the Voyager 2 Space Probe was to act as “backup” for the Voyager 1 Space Probe. It was an attempt to hedge against the unlikely event that something could have happened to the Voyager 1 Space Probe before it was able to complete its scheduled mission.
Nonetheless, the Voyager 2 Space Probe has been operational for 38 years now and is in constant contact with Scientists and Astronomers on Earth via the Deep Space Network.
The formal mission of the Voyager 2 Space Probe ended way back in 1989 after it explored the planet Neptune, but damn it, it wasn’t ready to quit just yet. Thank goodness, Voyager 2’s mission was extended and deployed to study the outermost parts of our Solar System.
Because this little space probe just won’t quit, we’ve decided to pay tribute to it and have compiled a list of 10 Cool Facts About the Voyager 2 Space Probe.
#10 – Voyager 2 Cool Fact: Built to Last Five Years
Though the Voyager 2 Space Probe was designed to closely study the two gas giant planets; Jupiter and Saturn, it was only expected to last through its five-year mission.
Due to the amazing craftsmanship and engineering of NASA, its mission was extended and the Voyager 2 Space Probe was sent further out into our Solar System to study Uranus and Neptune.
The Scientists at NASA used remote-controlled programming sent from the Earth to reprogram and further extend the capabilities of the Voyager 2 Space Probe. Their five-year program was then extended to last 12 years, fast forward to today, that same mission has now become 38 years.
Voyager 2 completed its grand tour of the four outermost planets which included; Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Again, the Scientists at NASA outdid themselves; carefully measuring a special trajectory route, the trip was a breeze due to a rare planetary alignment.
#9 – Voyager 2 Cool Fact: A Massive Collection of Data
By now we know how amazing it is that the Voyager 2 Space Probe lasted as long as it has. Nonetheless, even if the Voyager 2 mission had been terminated after its originally planned data and mission (study the first two gas giant planets), it would have gathered enough data to keep Scientists and Astronomers busy for years to come.
The data the Voyager 2 Space Probe gathered helped to resolve questions that were unanswered while simultaneously raising new questions about the evolution of the planets in our Solar System.
We’re still using data collected by the Voyager 2 Space Probe today, which is amazing to think that something created nearly four decades ago, with technology that was developed two years after the first personal computer by IBM. Most people don’t even use a cell phone for more than two years, let alone nearly 40.
#8 – Voyager 2 Cool Fact: Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow
Travelling at the rate of about 292,044,000 miles per year; the Voyager 2 Space Probe is currently on its way out of the Solar System and approaching the brink of interstellar space.
As the Voyager 2 Space Probe continues on its merry way, it has been reprogrammed to study ultraviolet sources that exist among the stars and explore the boundary of space where our Sun’s influence ends and interstellar space begins. This is really exciting stuff and something that Scientists and Astronomers haven’t had nearly the amount of, nor the quality of data to further progress our collective understand of the area so close, yet so far away.
The Voyager 2 Space Probe is expected to continue returning scientific data for yet another decade (fingers crossed it’s even longer). The average speed Voyager 2 is moving at is roughly 11.8 miles per second. At this time, it’s the most distant man-made objects along with Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11 and Voyager 1.
#7 – Voyager 2 Cool Fact: In 1986, Voyager 2 Saw Uranus
The Voyager 2 Space Probe flew closest to Uranus in January 1986. It was at that time the Voyager 2 sent massive amounts of data and thousands and thousands of images of its moons, atmosphere, rings, and magnetic rings back to Earth via radio waves to the Deep Space Network.
The Voyager 2 Space Probe captured images of the five largest moons of Uranus while simultaneously detecting 10 unseen moons up until that point; how amazing is that?
The existing rings and two new rings of the planet were studied in minute detail. Voyager helped to determine the rate of rotation of Uranus to be 17 hours and 14 minutes.
Thanks to the Voyager 2 Space Probe, we now know that the atmospheric temperature on Uranus is about -350 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, the Voyager 2 Space Probe helped to detect a large and unusual magnetic field around Uranus. We’re still studying this today!
#6 – Voyager 2 Cool Fact: Neptune, meet Voyager 2.
Something that will go down in the record books and forever belong to the Voyager 2 Space Probe; it was the first man-made object to flyby Neptune and what an amazing sight that must have been!
Neptune belongs to the class of planets Scientists and Astronomers refer to as the gas giants. Now, as I’m sure you’re aware, Scientists and Astronomers love to categorize and classify things until the cows come home. So, commonly Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are grouped together and called the gas giant planets.
Hold your horses there, before you get too familiar with this categorization you should know that there has recently been a split and re-categorization of Uranus and Neptune into what Scientists and Astronomers refer to as the ice giant planets. In either case, both classifications are correct.
The gas giant planet’s masses are nearly 4 to 12 times that of the size of the Earth. They don’t have solid surfaces but rather are composed of massive collections of various gases. These gases mostly include hydrogen and helium, among others trace gas sources.
The Voyager 2 Space Probe observed Neptune between the months of June and October in 1989, it was closest to Neptune in August of 1989. Voyager 2 also discovered the Great Dark Spot in the neighborhood of Neptune which later disappeared according to observations made by the Hubble Space Telescope. Creeeeepy.
After the Voyager 2’s Neptune flyby in the year 1989 and subsequent reclassification of Pluto as a ‘dwarf planet’ in 2006; every planet in the Solar System has been visited by a space probe at least once.
#5 – Voyager 2 Cool Fact: Voyager 2 carries a greeting with it
Voyager 2 carries a greeting to any form of life that may be encountered in the course of its journey. The greeting is on a phonograph record that contains sounds and images that give an idea about the diverse life and culture present on earth.
The record is a 12-inch copper disc plated with gold. Under the chairmanship of astronomer Carl Sagan, a committee put together 115 images and natural sounds, music and spoken greetings in 55 languages.
In case anyone is out there, we send messages of peace, love, Earth, humans and both technological and artistic creations by humans.
#4 – Voyager 2 Cool Fact: A Real Team Player
The scientific instruments carried by Voyager 2 directly support the five science teams participating in the Interstellar Mission.
The five science teams participating in the Interstellar Mission include members from the Magnetic Field Investigation, Low Energy Charged Particle Investigation, Cosmic Ray Investigation, Plasma Investigation (only by Voyager 2) and Plasma Wave Investigation.
There are five instruments which directly support these investigations and are so carefully carried by the Voyager 2 Space Probe. These amazing pieces of technology include the magnetic field instrument, low energy charged particle instrument, cosmic ray instrument, plasma instrument, and plasma wave instrument.
There is one additional instrument used for collecting data, but it doesn’t have any specific scientific investigation team associated with it.
#3 – Voyager 2 Cool Fact: Approaching the Final Frontier
The Voyager 2 Space Probe is estimated to enter the regions of Interstellar Space soon, Scientists and Astronomers are counting down until this monumental feat is accomplished.
At its current speed, the Voyager 2 Space Probe is expected to reach Interstellar Space in the first few months of the year 2016. The plasma spectrometer is expected to provide information about the temperature and density of the plasma resident in this area of space, which is something Scientists and Astronomers have really only been able to speculate.
The Voyager 2 Space Probe is expected to send weak signals back to the Earth until the year 2025, via the Deep Space Network.
In about 40,000 year from now, the Voyager 2 Space Probe is expected to exceed a distance of roughly 1.7 light years from Ross 248. If it travels undisturbed for a period of 296,000 years, it will pass by the star Sirius within a distance of 4.3 light years. So don’t hold your breath!
#2 – Voyager 2 Cool Fact: Innovative Technology
The Voyager 2 Space Probe was among the first space probes to ever carry re-programmable computers. This innovation in technology allowed for massive improvements to post-launch missions and even the capability of changing missions post-launch.
The Voyager 2 Space Probe is equipped with re-programmable computers, this allows for Scientists, Astronomers and Rocket Scientists to reprogram and make alterations to the space probe after launch. Voyager 2 also has a fault protection system in place, the system is designed to spot and trap errors – like a mini-version of R2-D2.
#1 – Voyager 2 Cool Fact: Nuclear Powered Probe
Yes, that’s correct! You heard it right, the Voyager 2 Space Probe is an interplanetary nuclear space probe floating through space!
The Voyager 2 Space Probe is powered by nuclear generators and designed to turn heat into electricity. They are so well designed that the Voyager 2 Space Probe had to resort to using its backup thrusters only in the year 2011.
The thermoelectric generators power the Voyager 2 Space Probe with about 470 watts. The Voyager 2 Space Probe will continue its mission through space long after these nuclear generators fail and have no heat left to convert into electricity.
In theory, the Voyager 2 Space Probe will continue to move majestically through space as it continues on its journey to the great beyond.