Interstellar 8-Track: How Voyager’s Vintage Tech Keeps Running | Science | WIRED: As long as they are still functioning, both Voyager spacecraft will continue to collect data and send it back to us through at least 2020, and possibly until 2025. Even if something breaks and they are suddenly unable to hear anything from Earth, they will keep sending data back, repeating the same sets of observations until they run out of power.
But the radioisotope batteries on Voyager 1 and 2 are diminishing, putting out four Watts less per year. Mission managers will one day have to prioritize which instruments are most important during the voyage through interstellar space, shutting them off one by one as the years go on. After that, both probes will remain within range of our antennas until perhaps 2036. Though scientific data won’t be returned, engineering data could still come back if there is enough power to send a signal. All this means that the mission isn’t yet done.
“We’ve just stepped into interstellar space,” said Dodd. “We’re just going across the horizon line and there are many more discoveries to come.”