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NASA is planning to extend the life of the Voyager 1 spacecraft until 2025 by shutting off the heating system to save power. Voyager 1 was launched on Sept. 5, 1977, about two weeks after Voyager 2 in what was originally planned to be a five-year mission to study Jupiter and Saturn.
The spectrometer, which collects and returns data, aboard Voyager 1 was built to withstand temperatures as low as minus 35 degrees Celsius (minus 31 degrees Fahrenheit), The heater nearest the spectrometer was actually shut off 17 years ago and other heaters in the spacecraft kept the temperature around minus 56 degrees Celsius (minus 69 degrees Fahrenheit.) Scientists believe the termperature inside Voyager 1 will read minus 79 degrees Celsius (or minus 110 degrees Fahrenheit), since that's as low as the thermometer will indicate.
In this gallery, originally posted in 2007, we'll look at some of the more fascinating discoveries of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2.
Less than a year ago and over 9.7 billion miles away from Earth, the Voyagers discovered big bubbles, about 100 million miles across, near the edge of our solar system. Voyager 1 entered this foamy area in 2007.
"The sun's magnetic field extends all the way to the edge of the solar system," explains astronomer Merav Opher. "Because the sun spins, its magnetic field becomes twisted and wrinkled, a bit like a ballerina's skirt. Far, far away from the sun, where the Voyagers are now, the folds of the skirt bunch up."
The area of the bubbles is called the "heliospher" which is the border crossing between our solar system and the rest of the Milky Way. Opher believe that these bubbles may protect our galaxy from cosmic rays and other dangers from black holes and supernova explosions.
NASA descibes the drawing: "Old and new views of the heliosheath. Red and blue spirals are the gracefully curving magnetic field lines of orthodox models. New data from Voyager add a magnetic froth (inset) to the mix."
In April 2011, NASA announced that the two Voyager spacecraft would soon be the first human-made objects to leave our solar system. While on their journey, each day the Voyagers send back this message, "Expect the unexpedted."
At this point the power left in Voyager 1 from the radioactive decay of a Plutonium 238 heat source was expected to keep it running until 2020.