Voyager Spacecraft Continue to Fly On in Outer Space

In 1977 two unmanned spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, were launched into outer space from Cape Canaveral, FloridaAlthough they were originally designed to examine the outer planets of our solar system, the two space probes continue their journey up to the present and might be leaving our solar system very soon. Voyager 1 is currently the farthest man-made object from Earth.

The unique line-up of the Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus made it possible to use the gravitational pull of these planets to pick up speed and send the probes to Neptune and beyond.

While Voyager 1 had the task of exploring Jupiter and Saturn Voyager 2, which was launched before its sister craft, flew past the two biggest planets and successfully visited Uranus in 1986 and Neptune three years later.

Today the two craft continue to move on towards the boundaries of the solar system, at a speed of over 500 million km a year.  

NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft

NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft


Although scientists do not exactly know where the solar system ends, it is thought that the sun’s particles may reach to a distance of about 23 billion km, about three times the sun’s distance to Pluto. Both spacecraft may be getting near this area. In December Voyager 1 sent back data that suggests it was in a transition zone between our solar system and interstellar space. The craft recorded a large amount of high-energy particles from outside the solar system.

The spacecraft are powered by small nuclear reactors, which can produce enough power to keep them moving until 2025.  Mission controllers have instructed Voyager to switch to back-up power systems that have not been used before. This additional power can ensure that the spacecraft can save energy and continue. It took the signals over 14 hours to reach the spacecraft and the same amount of time for their confirmation.

On board the spacecraft are golden records containing pictures and music from Earth just in case the probes meet any form of life outside the solar system.

 

 

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Words

  • additional = extra
  • although = while
  • amount = sum
  • back-up = reserve
  • billion  = a thousand million
  • boundary = limit, border
  • confirmation = here: a signal that shows that something happened
  • contain = to have in them
  • currently = at the moment
  • data = information
  • designed = planned
  • ensure = make sure, guarantee
  • examine = take a close look at
  • explore = to travel to a planet and find out more about it
  • gravitational pull = the power that makes things move in a certain direction
  • instruct = tell; give a command
  • interstellar = happening or existing between the stars
  • journey = trip
  • just in case = if
  • launch = start
  • line-up =  the way objects are arranged
  • mission controller = person who follows the journey from earth
  • nuclear reactor = machine that produces energy by splitting atoms
  • particle = very small piece of something
  • power = run by
  • probe = unmanned spaceship or satellite
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a laboratory
  • spacecraft = spaceship
  • speed = how fast something is
  • successful = to get the result you wanted
  • suggest = here: prove, show
  • switch = change
  • task = job
  • transition zone = here: area where the structure of something changes
  • unique = here: something that happens only once in a long time
  • unmanned = without a person inside