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Voyager mission project scientist retires after 50 years • The Register

Voyager mission project scientist retires after 50 years • The Register

The Voyager mission project scientist has retired after 50 years of service.

Ed Stone applied for the gig when the two Voyager spacecraft were still on the drawing board in 1972.

He has had a job ever since. Like NASA explained, Stone became director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and, as that facility operates the Voyagers, kept the gig managing the twin probes. He later retired from JPL in 2001, but continued to serve as project scientist for the Voyager mission.

“It has been an honor and a joy to serve as a Voyager project scientist for 50 years,” Stone said in NASA’s farewell announcement. “The spacecraft performed beyond expectations, and I appreciated the opportunity to work with so many talented and dedicated people on this mission. It has been an extraordinary journey, and I am grateful to everyone around the world who accompanied Voyager and joined us on this adventure.”

Voyager probe.  Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA builds forever: The Voyager mission is still going after 45 years

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NASA in August 2022 celebrated 45th anniversary of the launch of the twin probes in 1977. Reg readers (and writers) count themselves fans of the two Voyagers, which have since become the first human-made objects to exit the heliosphere—the bubble of plasma that surrounds Sol.

Along the way, Voyager 1 visited Jupiter and Saturn, paying particular attention to the latter’s gas giant moon Titan. Voyager 2 also visited Neptune and Uranus. The spacecraft remains the only Terran craft to have visited any planet.

Voyager 1 is now nearly 22 light hours from Earth, and Voyager 2 is eighteen hours and fifteen minutes away by radio. Signals to and from the spacecraft crawl along the u 160 bits per second.

Unfortunately, within a few years, communication with the Voyagers will become impossible as the radioisotope thermoelectric generators that power them degrade. NASA has already turned off many of the probes’ instruments to extend operation for as long as possible. But soon—probably in 2025 or shortly thereafter—the Voyagers will fall silent.

NASA announced that Linda Spilker will succeed Stone as Voyager project scientist. She previously worked on Voyager—during its planetary flybys—and served as project scientist for the Cassini mission to Saturn before returning to Voyager as deputy project scientist in 2021. ®



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