NPR reports on NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory finding a way to keep the plucky space probe going in the outer limits of the solar system for another few years by tapping some reserve power from a safety device:
With Voyager 2’s power supply dwindling, NASA was about to shut down one of its five science instruments onboard the spacecraft. To keep it going, engineers had already sacrificed heaters and other nonessential parts that drained power. But engineers have now found a way to tap reserve power from a safety mechanism that regulates the spacecraft’s voltage.
Voyager 2 is 12.3 billion miles away from Earth and counting. Voyager 1, also facing an expiration date as it also loses power, is 14.7 billion miles away.
“The science data that the Voyagers are returning gets more valuable the farther away from the Sun they go, so we are definitely interested in keeping as many science instruments operating as long as possible,” Linda Spilker, the Voyager program’s project scientist at the Jet Propulsion Lab, said in a statement.