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When will we get the last communication from Voyager 1?
Launched in September, 1977, the Voyager 1 spacecraft is currently the most distant manmade object in space. Amazingly, it continues to "phone home" even from its position beyond the heliosheath.
The sensitivity of our deep-space tracking antennas located around the world is truly amazing. The antennas must capture Voyager information from a signal so weak that the power striking the antenna is only 10 exponent -16 watts (1 part in 10 quadrillion). A modern-day electronic digital watch operates at a power level 20 billion times greater than this feeble level.
Alas, in spite of all this awesome science, Voyager 1's days are numbered. Its fuel is nearly spent. In just a few years, it will bleat out its last signal, and then we'll hear from it no more. As The Atlantic reports:
The Voyagers [including Voyager 2] eventually will go quiet. The spacecrafts’ electric power, supplied by radioisotope thermoelectric generators, weakens each day. Dodd said scientists and engineers will likely begin shutting off instruments in 2020, a debate that she says is already underway. “These scientists have had their instruments on for 40 years,” she said. “Nobody wants to be the first one turned off.” The spacecrafts’ transmitters will be the last to go. They will die on their own, in the late 2020s or perhaps in the 2030s. “One day we’ll be looking for the signal and we won’t hear it anymore,” Dodd said.
What will happen to it then? The ship's odyssey into the great black unknown is just beginning. Lots of speculation on Quora, including this cool passage:
About [the Voyagers'] eventual fate, will they be intercepted by intelligent lifeforms? We honestly don’t know. What we know is that both crafts will be confined to the Milky Way galaxy. Our solar system is traveling around the galaxy at about 514,000 mph, 15 times as fast as the Voyagers’ current speeds. This means that in a few hundred million years, our paths will again cross, or certainly get close. Earth might already be vacant of humans in that time, but not necessarily in space. Humanity might be scattered all over the galaxy and maybe, in a strange twist of fate, the Golden Records, humanity’s message in a bottle to other intelligent lifeforms out there, were actually meant for our own descendants
In any event, what's your take? In what month and year will scientists receive the last credible signal from this amazing machine before it's lost forever to the void?
Question will resolve to the time of the last signal received, after no signal has been received for one year.
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