NASA successfully hacks the 45-year-old spacecraft from 14 billion miles away

Voyager 2, launched in 1977, has been exploring the depths of our solar system and beyond for over four decades. As the spacecraft continues its journey into interstellar space, NASA has devised a new power strategy to keep Voyager 2 operational and gathering valuable scientific data. In this article, we will discuss how NASA’s innovative approach has extended the life of this historic probe, enabling it to continue its mission of exploration and discovery. As Voyager 2 travels further from the Sun, its power supply dwindles. The spacecraft relies on radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) to convert heat from radioactive decay into electricity. Over time, the efficiency of these generators decreases, resulting in diminished power availability for the probe’s instruments and systems. NASA engineers had to develop a strategy to manage the probe’s limited power supply effectively while maintaining its scientific capabilities. To tackle the power management challenge, NASA’s engineers carefully analyzed the energy requirements of Voyager 2’s scientific instruments and systems. They then devised a plan to switch off non-essential components and reallocate power to the most critical instruments. This new power strategy allows Voyager 2 to continue gathering valuable data about interstellar space while conserving energy for the remainder of its mission. After developing the new power strategy, NASA’s engineers faced the challenge of implementing it remotely on a spacecraft billions of miles away. In March 2022, they successfully executed the power-saving plan, shutting down the Cosmic Ray Subsystem (CRS) instrument and reallocating its power to other critical systems. The CRS instrument had been operational since Voyager 2’s launch, providing important data on cosmic rays for over four decades. Although Voyager 2 has lost one of its key instruments, the new power strategy allows the probe to maintain functionality of its other essential systems. The spacecraft remains capable of studying interstellar space, providing valuable information about the heliosphere, the magnetic field, and the solar wind.