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NASA tells Voyager 2 to save its strength

Agency wants ship to explore the outer limits for 10 more years

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Voyager 2 is conserving energy by using its back-up thrusters as it continues to boldly go where no spaceship has gone before.

The second of NASA's explorers of the space beyond our solar system has accepted commands from the space agency's Deep Space Network personnel to switch to the back-up thrusters that control the roll of the spacecraft.

The ship is already using its sets of back-up thrusters that control pitch and yaw, and turning on the last set, which control its roll, will allow engineers to turn off the heater that keeps the fuel line to the primary thruster warm, NASA said.

The switch will save about 12 watts of power, helping the ship to keep on flying for another 10 years, gathering scientific data at the heliopause boundary and hopefully beyond.

NASA wants to send the two voyagers out to the heliopause boundary – the outer limits of the Sun's magnetic field and outward flow of the solar wind – and then through in order to take measurements of interstellar fields, particles and waves unaffected by the solar wind.

Right now, Voyager 2 is located around 14 billion kilometres from Earth in the heliosheath* – "the outermost layer of the heliosphere where the solar wind, which streams out from the sun, is slowed by the pressure of interstellar gas", according to NASA. ®

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