The Voyager 2 spacecraft, which, together with its twin Voyager 1, was launched into space in 1977, is now in interstellar space, which makes it the most remote object from humanity made by humanity. And now, after 40 years of being in space, both Voyager apparatuses begin to experience difficulties associated with their venerable age, as for spacecraft. These difficulties consist in a gradual equipment failure, a decrease in the power of the power supply, and failures, the last of which caused the Voyager 2 to automatically enter the emergency protected mode.
Protected mode is a programmed means by which the device can protect itself in case of exceptional situations. NASA engineers can still communicate with the device and receive telemetry data from it. And these data are used to develop a set of measures aimed at returning the device to normal operation.
Note that starting from the moment of launching into space, the power sources of Voyager devices based on radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) constantly lost power at a speed of about 4 watts per year. This decrease in power is directly related to a decrease in the intensity of the processes of natural decay of the radioactive isotopes contained in it.
NASA representatives said the failure occurred on January 25, when the Voyager 2 tried to perform the planned maneuver, a 360-degree turn, to calibrate the on-board instrument that measures the intensity of magnetic fields. This maneuver was never completed, and telemetry data indicated the occurrence of strong leakage of electricity in two nodes of the device involved simultaneously in the execution of the maneuver.
The resulting leaks caused an overload of the power supply of the device, the voltage in the on-board network began to decline and the protection system turned off most of the most powerful consumers. Later, an attempt was made to re-enable disabled systems and scientific instruments, some of which could not continue to work in normal mode. Now, NASA experts are considering the state of the rest of the spacecraft systems and are working on finding ways to return it to normal functioning.
The procedures that NASA specialists use to restore the Voyager 2 are moving very slowly. This is due to the fact that it takes 17 hours for the signal from the Earth to reach the spacecraft, and another 17 hours for the response signal to reach the Earth. But let’s hope that NASA experts will be able to return Voyager 2 back into operation and this device will add a few more items to a rather impressive list of discoveries made by it.