voyager

A New Plan for Keeping NASA's Oldest Explorers Going

A New Plan for Keeping NASA's Oldest Explorers Going

With careful planning and dashes of creativity, engineers have been able to keep NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft flying for nearly 42 years — longer than any other spacecraft in history. To ensure that these vintage robots continue to return the best science data possible from the frontiers of space, mission engineers are implementing a new plan to manage them. And that involves making difficult choices, particularly about instruments and thrusters

Cassini conducts a final flyby of Titan before crashing into Saturn

Cassini conducts a final flyby of Titan before crashing into Saturn

When the Cassini spacecraft arrived around Saturn on July 1st, 2004, it became the fourth space probe to visit the system. But unlike the Pioneer 11 and Voyager 1 and 2 probes, the Cassini mission was the first to establish orbit around the planet for the sake of conducting long-term research. Since that time, the spacecraft and its accompanying probe – the Huygens lander – have revealed a startling amount about this system.

NASA’s Cassini, Voyager Missions Suggest New Picture of Sun’s Interaction with Galaxy

NASA’s Cassini, Voyager Missions Suggest New Picture of Sun’s Interaction with Galaxy

New data from NASA’s Cassini mission, combined with measurements from the two Voyager spacecraft and NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, suggests that our sun and planets are surrounded by a giant, rounded system of magnetic field from the sun — calling into question the alternate view of the solar magnetic fields trailing behind the sun in the shape of a long comet tail.

Exploring the universe for magnetic fields

Exploring the universe for magnetic fields

In the past few decades, astronomers and geophysicists have benefited immensely from the study of planetary magnetic fields. Dedicated to mapping patterns of magnetism on other astronomical bodies, this field has grown thanks to missions ranging from the Voyager probes to the more recent Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission.

Dusty plasma in the universe and in the laboratory

Dusty plasma in the universe and in the laboratory

In 1981, the Voyager 2 space probe took intriguing images of Saturn’s rings as it passed by the giant planet on its way to Uranus. The images showed what looked like ghostly “spokes” moving on the rings, much like the spokes of a bicycle wheel as it turns. After some head-scratching, scientists realized that the Saturnian spokes most likely were tiny specks of dust moving around the rings due to electric and magnetic forces. These forces result from electrically charged gases known as plasma.

How to build a starship – and why we should start thinking about it now

How to build a starship – and why we should start thinking about it now

With a growing number of Earth-like exoplanets discovered in recent years, it is becoming increasingly frustrating that we can’t visit them. After all, our knowledge of the planets in our own solar system would be pretty limited if it weren’t for the space probes we’d sent to explore them.