Voyager mission project scientist retires after 50 years • The Register

Voyager mission project scientist retires after 50 years • The Register

The project scientist for the Voyager mission has retired after 50 years on the job.

Ed Stone signed on for the gig when the two Voyager spacecraft were still on the drawing board in 1972.

He’s had the job ever since. Like NASA explained, Stone became director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, and since that facility manages the Voyagers, he kept the gig managing the twin probes. He later retired from JPL in 2001, but continued to serve as project scientist for the Voyager mission.

“It has been an honor and a joy to serve as Voyager project scientist for 50 years,” Stone said in NASA’s release announcing his retirement. “The spacecraft has succeeded beyond expectations, and I have loved the opportunity to work with so many talented and dedicated people on this mission. It has been a remarkable journey, and I am grateful to everyone who has followed Voyager and have joined all over the world. us in this adventure.”

Voyager probe.  Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA builds to last: The Voyager mission is still going after 45 years


In August 2022 NASA celebrated the 45th anniversary of the launch of the twin probes in 1977. Many Reg readers (and writers) are among the admirers of the two Voyagers, which have since become the first man-made objects to leave the heliosphere—the bubble of plasma that surrounds the Sun.

Along the way, Voyager 1 visited Jupiter and Saturn, paying particular attention to the gas giant’s moon Titan. Voyager 2 also visited Neptune and Uranus. The craft remains the only Earth craft to have visited any planet.

Voyager 1 is now almost 22 light hours from Earth, and Voyager 2 is eighteen hours and fifteen minutes away by radio. Signals to and from the vessel are dragged to 160 bits per second.

Unfortunately, within a few years communication with the Voyagers will be impossible because the radioisotope thermoelectric generators that power them are degrading. NASA has already shut down many of the probes’ instruments to extend operations as long as possible. But soon, probably in 2025 or not long after, the Voyagers will go silent.

NASA has announced that Linda Spilker will succeed Stone as Voyager project scientist. She previously worked on Voyager during its planetary flybys and served as project scientist for the Cassini mission to Saturn before returning to Voyager as deputy project scientist in 2021. ®

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