How NASA hopes they can keep the Voyager probes alive until their 50th anniversary

NASA launched the twin Voyagers 1 and 2 in 1977 on a grand tour of the solar system and into the mysteries of interstellar space. Attached to each of these spacecraft is a golden phonograph record containing a message for any extraterrestrial intelligence that might encounter it, perhaps billions of years from now. This enchanting artifact—the Voyager Golden Record—may be the last vestige of our civilization after we are gone forever. Almost 47 years later, the probes are more than 12 billion miles away and still transmitting valuable scientific data back home. Yes, there have been nerve-rattling hiccups but NASA's engineers have managed incredible feats of long-distance repairs. The crafts' nuclear power is running out though. Can the Voyagers manage to stay in touch with us for another few years until their 50th anniversary?

"We've done a lot of clever engineering things to be able to keep these instruments on as long as possible, knowing that we have a limited power supply," Voyager project manager Suzanne Dodd says.

From Business Insider:

By 2026, NASA may have to turn off at least one of Voyager 2's instruments.

"What we're looking at is making the two spacecraft complementary to each other," Dodd said. "You might keep one instrument operating on one spacecraft but turn it off on another."

Down the road, the choices about which instruments to keep running will be more difficult. Dodd said the scientists would likely keep powering the ones that took the least energy.

"And then it's also an evaluation of the science," she said. "What's the most critical science that we get?" […]

The fact that there are two spacecraft means the chances are pretty good that at least one of them can keep communicating for a few more years, Dodd said.

"I'm very optimistic that we'll get to a 50-year anniversary," she said.