How is Voyager’s vintage technology still flying?

Vintage tech has extended the crafts’ lifespan—but it’s unclear how much juice they’ve got left.
engineers working on voyager 2
NASA engineers work on Voyager 2 back in 1977. NASA

In 1989, Chuck Berry and Carl Sagan partied it up at one of the biggest bashes of the summer—a celebration honoring the two Voyager spacecrafts, who were about to make a dramatic exit from our solar system. 

The twin probes, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, launched back in 1977, with only a five-year mission to take a gander at Jupiter and Saturn’s rings and moons, hauling the Golden Record containing messages and cultural snapshots from Earth (including Chuck Berry’s music). 

Obviously, the Voyager spacecrafts have persisted a lot longer than five years: 46 years, to be exact. They’re still careening through space at a distance between 12 and 14 billion miles from Earth. So how have they lasted four decades longer than expected? Much of it has to do with a bit of vintage hardware and a handful of software updates. You can find out more (and when the crafts’ expected death dates) by subscribing to PopSci+ and reading the full story by Tatyana Woodall, and by listening to our new episode of Ask Us Anything