Voyager instrument cooling after heater turned off

Voyager instrument cooling after heater turned off
Artist's concept of NASA's Voyager spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

( -- In order to reduce power consumption, mission managers have turned off a heater on part of NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft, dropping the temperature of its ultraviolet spectrometer instrument more than 23 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit). It is now operating at a temperature below minus 79 degrees Celsius (minus 110 degrees Fahrenheit), the coldest temperature that the instrument has ever endured.

This heater shut-off is a step in the careful management of the diminishing so that the can continue to collect and transmit data through 2025.

At the moment, the spectrometer continues to collect and return data. It was originally designed to operate at temperatures as low as minus 35 degrees Celsius (minus 31 degrees Fahrenheit), but it has continued to operate in ever chillier temperatures as heaters around it have been turned off over the last 17 years. It was not known if the spectrometer would continue working, but since 2005, it has been operating at minus 56 degrees Celsius (69 degrees Fahrenheit.) So engineers are encouraged that the instrument has continued to operate, even after the nearby heater was turned off in December. (The spectrometer is likely operating at a temperature somewhat lower than minus 79 degrees Celsius, or minus 110 degrees Fahrenheit, but the temperature detector does not go any lower.)

Scientists and mission managers will continue to monitor the spectrometer's performance. It was very active during Voyager 1's encounters with Jupiter and Saturn, and since then an international team led by scientists in France has been analyzing the spectrometer's data.

This latest heater shut-off was actually part of the nearby , which itself has not been operational on Voyager 1 since 1998.

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Citation: Voyager instrument cooling after heater turned off (2012, January 18) retrieved 20 July 2019 from
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Jan 18, 2012
The Voyager is by far the most incredible journey of mankind. I don't know why we do not have hundreds of these types of crafts firing off in all directions towards many of the interesting places in our solar system and beyond. Best money ever spent. The design should have been cloned and reused dozens of times at least.

Jan 18, 2012
The design should have been cloned and reused dozens of times at least.

True, I do love this project and am going to be sad when it runs out of power altogether, but remember that the more probes they send out there higher the increase in the amount of data to analyse!

Maybe they'll send another pair out when these have stopped being able to send information, only with better technology!

Jan 18, 2012
With the advances in satellite power source technologies, I agree that a second generation of these should be launched and in much greater numbers.

Jan 18, 2012
Incredible technology

Jan 18, 2012
Keep in mind the "grand tour" launch window for the Voyager mission only happens once every 176 or 189 years (different sites have different numbers). Sending copies of this craft every which direction would be very wasteful, as many of its instruments and cameras were designed with very specific conditions in mind for fast planetary flybys. These craft were also built using mostly hand crafted custom parts, so it would be very expensive and wasteful. Not to mention that the launch rockets of the day were quite expensive as well. Voyager filled its "niche" very well but now we have need for different craft.

The purpose built orbiters (voyagers were not made to orbit) like Galileo, Cassini, and MGS were vast improvements on Voyager design.) And of course the rovers and the Huygens probe were pretty cool to.

SpaceX is working on more bulk-like manufacturing of space tech. I forsee after a while they might build more than lift vehicles.

Jan 18, 2012
If the (nearby) Universe is isotropic, then what more might be the return on investment?

The nearby universe isn't isotropic. Voyager already found shifting and turbulent heliopause. It would be interesting to map that in more directions than one.

Remember that the Voyager probes did a lot along the way: flybys of planets and moons, measurements of solar wind, etc.
They're not meant to be better at poking at the universe at large than other instruments we have.

Jan 18, 2012
More spacecrafts like Voyager are not and were not sent to space because the Space Program is (unfortunately) ruled by politicians that have no clue about science.
Therefore, maned missions which are 1000 times more expensive are preferred at the expensive of unmanned ones like this jewell of a spacecraft.

Jan 18, 2012
"V___ger" also inspired the first "Star Trek" movie, in late 1979. "V'ger is that which seeks the Creator" and studied the "carbon units" through the Deltan Ilia played by a former Miss India, actress Persis Khambatta.

Jan 18, 2012
Unfortunately no one wants to say how we are going to come up with the money for these nice little space crafts that we are just going to send out in all directions and get.... what type of information from them again? Something only scientists care about? We need more projects like Hubble where the public can actually say, well at least I got something for my money... instead of, great there is no solar winds at the X million mile marker.... great.....

I'm all for scientific exploration but the money has to come from somewhere and I believe people in the US and now Europe have more important things to spend their money on, like, oh I don't know... mortgages and what not.

Jan 18, 2012
@Shifty0x88: Cost of Cassini was two days in Iraq. Remember there were EIGHT Hubble-sized/style telescopes (KH-11) spying on us before there was one looking at the stars.

Science is the starving mangy dog under the barbarians' tables. We are tossed scraps and gristle while the warriors feast.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
- Dwight D. Eisenhower

Jan 18, 2012
I don't understand the "save power" concept as the power plant is a plutonium thermo-electric generator which makes power continuously whether it's used or not and there is no real storage capacity (battery) on board.

I expect they meant to say they are having to work in a lower power envelop because the power plant constantly decays.

Jan 19, 2012
.. in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed ..

Sweet sentiment but fundamentally flawed reasoning. The money spent on weaponry employs people that purchase goods from businesses that further employ people. This money does feed and clothe people, pay for education and health. Technological advances are made that enhance our lives through defense spending.

We don't give the guns or bombs or warships the money. We give people the money.

The only people who generally suffer from the US military industry, are those sad sacks that want to interfere or attack America.

God Bless America. Land of opportunity. Home of the brave.

Jan 19, 2012
bottomlesssoul > I had the same interrogations.
But it might be that the power output is diminishing with time and that they need to shut down some parts to keep enough electricity for the essential parts.

Jan 19, 2012
bluehigh > your reasoning is flawed too, using this money on science instead of weapons would have distributed the same amount of money in the economy, but would have produced an output in science and technology while spending it on wars doesn't have any good output.

And in the people suffering from the US military industry, you forget the ones that have oil wanted by america, and also all the innocent people killed by error in the wars.

Jan 19, 2012
luinil> Would you have your paradise unprotected so that any evil tyrant could come and take it away from you?

Hmmm, headlines I did not see. Ethical scientists decline to develop atomic bomb - um nope. Outraged chemists say nerve gas weapons immoral - um nope. One million American service personal quit in protest of military spending - um nope.

Even with all that defence spending we sent Voyager on an awesome mission. Walked on the moon. Drive rovers on Mars.

Jan 19, 2012

Defence is one thing (and is necessary), going to war abroad is another. I fail to see how the Irak war was a defense war.

When Voyager was sent, when America walked on the Moon, the defense budget was way lower than today.
And it has been a long time since an American walked on the Moon, I am 27 tomorrow, that means that since I was born, the Moon as seen no one. America could sent people on the Moon, today it can't even launch people in space..

Jan 19, 2012
I fail to see how the Irak war was a defense war.

You quoted a one sided view from a US president. I am sure that there is a quote from a US president that insists the police action in Iraq was defensive. I am sad at your failure.

.. the defense budget was way lower than today.

Oh, just because you say so? Given the increase in the rest of the worlds spending on weapons and adjusted for economic growth and inflation, are you sure? Provide a reference or you are just spouting false beliefs.

America can launch people into space almost whenever they choose. Just because the road-map to privatization, and exploration priorities, does not suit you is .. well, unfortunate for you.

SpaceX- to the space station soon. Virgin Galactic. Bigalow. Aerospace - all American space pioneering companies. Only in America the Great.

Jan 20, 2012
Issues of what is done with military forces aside, nothing motivated innovation over human history like conflict. A few off the top of my head:

Maybe topmost, explosives (modern industry wouldn't have gotten far without them. And Nobel (peace prize) became rich when his explosive technologies allowed an exponential leap in mining and construction projects.)

Medicine (gruesome I admit.) Lots of chemistry (besides explosives) and math, radar, jet engines, cryptology, meteorology, rockets (the whole space race to the moon was basically a military thing.)

And of course computers (not the original, usually women, mathematicians cranking out artillery trajectory charts) and then Arpanet (which became the Internet.)


Jan 20, 2012
Big advance of physics came from military research, of course nuclear bombs grew out of that, which potentially could be the game-ending technology that negates anything positive that came out of military research spending. And some time in the future nuclear power might be the best ticket to becoming a multi planet species which might save us from extinction.

Really, only in recent times is military spending in such a grey area. Hopefully that trend continues, because it really sucks when military spending becomes your primary "necessity".

Jan 20, 2012
nothing motivated innovation over human history like conflict.

No. Artsist and scientists share somthing: They are driven. They don't need a conflict, threat or pressure of any kind to give their utmost. They do it because it's fun.

Conflict has only the effect that a lot of resources are suddenly pumped into certain areas (usually military in nature) which allows scientists to realize more of their ideas at once. But conflict per se does not enhance human creativity/innovation.

Jan 21, 2012
nothing motivated innovation over human history like conflict.

No. Artsist and scientists share somthing: They are driven. They don't need a conflict, threat or pressure of any kind to give their utmost. They do it because it's fun...

Hear! Hear!

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