The Voyager Interstellar Mission is rooted in the Grand Tour – an alignment of the outer planets which allowed for a single space probe to visit each of them rapidly.
The Voyager spacecraft were constructed to do just that – obtain close up views and observations of the outer planets. Together, the two spacecraft brought unprecedented observations of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and their corresponding satellites and ring systems.
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Having completed their planetary mission after the visit of Neptune in 1989, the two Voyagers are now continuing their journey out of the Solar System. Instead of fading into obscurity, the Voyagers are still transmitting back observations in its new mission – the Voyager Interstellar Mission. Instead of observing planets, the two spacecraft are now giving us our first glimpses into the edges of the solar system.
To do this, mission scientists had to use instruments meant for observing planets for observing the environment at the area at the edge of the Solar System. Five distinct and specialized scientific groups are currently engaged on analyzing the data coming from Voyager. Together with Voyager, these groups have expanded our understanding of the outer solar system.
Power and funding challenges continue to hound the Voyager mission. Since its launch, Voyager's power source has been continually declining. To cope with the lowered power output, components of Voyager have been shut down one by one which means that some measurements have already been or will be stopped in the near future.
The mission ends when the power sources cannot anymore power any single instrument. Some earth bound problems remain however as budget cuts threaten the existence of the mission.
Voyager Interstellar Mission – Paper Proposal
For this paper, I plan on discussing the Voyager Interstellar Mission. The proposed outline is attached below.
My interest in the Voyager Interstellar Mission lies in their wonderful history and unique position. In this sense, the Voyager spacecraft are like “the little space probes that could”.
The Voyager spacecraft were initially launched more than thirty years ago to take advantage of a unique arrangement of the outer planets. This arrangement made The Grand Tour possible, visiting each of the outer planets consecutively within a short amount of time.
The spacecraft were originally meant to take closeup observations of the outer planets, observations which were not possible to make from Earth. They were successful in doing this, having sent back pictures of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Their discoveries adding to and refining our knowledge of the outer planets.
Having finished their original mission, the two spacecraft continue on their voyage out of the Solar System. With no forces holding them back, the two will continue on their journey indefinitely and will soon be traveling in Interstellar space.
The Voyager Interstellar Mission takes advantage of this fact, exploiting the location of the twin Voyagers to gather data and observations about the edge of the Solar System. If the planetary mission helped to add and refine our knowledge of the outer planets, the interstellar mission is currently helping add and refine our knowledge of the environment and processes at work at the solar system's edge.
In line with this, I also plan on discussing current knowledge about the edge of the Solar System. This knowledge will help the reader comprehend the scope of the Voyager Interstellar Mission as well as what the Voyager probes are expected to understand.
A discussion of the spacecraft is also needed to understand the mission. The instruments used in the interstellar mission are the same instruments used in observing the outer planets.
By understanding these instruments, we get an understanding of the kind of observations that the Voyagers are doing in Interstellar space. We also gain an understanding of the operations that enable the mission to communicate with Earth. Understanding the spacecraft also allows us to understand the main challenge facing the mission – the loss in power.
Even if the success of the Voyager program has already been established, it still faces some challenges. Due to its age its power generating system has had severe losses in capacity. Because of this several instruments and systems aboard the craft have already been shut down due to the loss in power. Earth bound troubles also hound the craft as budget cuts threaten the existence of the mission.
To complete the paper, I plan on giving a few samples of the scientific advances that the Interstellar mission has brought. It is also important to realize the amount of research that the thirty year old Voyagers have enabled. I also point out some researches from Voyager that have helped us in our understanding of the Sun.
In this way, I point out that these spacecraft even if they are very far are even giving us new insights to something that is quite close to home.
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