“I think there was probably a big sigh of relief there,” said Mr Nagle. “And we were delighted to confirm that the spaceship was still talking to us.”
The work received high marks from NASA officials in the United States.
“The DSN folks in Canberra did a remarkable job in the pandemic just to update DSS 43,” said Suzanne Dodd, project manager for the Voyager mission and director of interplanetary networks at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “I have one hundred percent confidence in this antenna that it will function flawlessly for a few more decades. Long gone when the Voyagers are done. “
Both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 hold the records for the longest spacecraft travel and longest mission. Voyager 2 has had a few problems over the years, but it is still groping its way around in the dark, making discoveries about the boundaries that separate our solar system from the rest of the Milky Way.
“I’ve seen scientists with a background in astrophysics now studying Voyager data and trying to match it with data from ground-based telescopes or other space-based telescopes,” said Ms. Dodd. “It’s exciting to go from a planetary mission to a heliophysics mission and now practically an astrophysics mission.”
While Voyager 2 chugs on, Ms. Dodd and her colleagues prepare to turn off one of their scientific sensors, the Low Energy Charged Particle instrument. This ensures that the spacecraft’s limited power supply keeps the other systems, particularly the communications antenna, warm enough to function.
While this will reduce the spacecraft’s scientific performance, its main goal now is longevity.
“The challenge is not in the new technology or the big discoveries,” said Ms. Dodd. “The challenge is to keep it going for as long as possible and to return the scientific data for as long as possible.”
The team estimates both starships can be in service for another four to eight years, and NASA granted the team three more years of flight last year.