Trivia

Hard

What Off-The-Shelf Addition Did NASA Scientists Add To The Voyager Probes At The Last Minute?

Crazy Glue
Egg Timers
Aluminum Foil
Bamboo Skewers
A team of engineers working on the Voyager 2 spacecraft.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)/NASA

Answer: Aluminum Foil

You may use it to cover baking lasagna and wrap leftovers, but the humble aluminum foil found in your kitchen drawer has uses that extend well beyond culinary considerations. In fact, the farthest traveling space probes humanity has ever launched into space owe some of their longevity to the simple kitchen aide.

Shortly before the Voyager program was set to launch, NASA scientists were more than a bit paranoid that deep space might be more hazardous than they imagined for the soon-to-prove-plucky little space probes. The only problem with delaying the mission was that it would scrap the entire project. The Voyager launches hinged on a planetary alignment that only occurs once every 175 years. Any delay to fortify the probes with custom made shielding would delay them beyond the launch window and they’d miss the alignment they desperately needed to make the launch and travel path work.

Rather than risk a failed mission after they had invested so much energy and money into the project, the scientists at NASA grabbed an off-the-shelf solution and got to work. Both probes received an upgrade before launch that included wrapping all of the cabling and critical connection points in off-the-shelf aluminum foil to protect them from extra radiation the scientists feared might be out there. In the photo shown here of Voyager 2 being worked on in a clean room, you can see the cabling on the right-hand side is wrapped in layers of aluminum foil.

That extra shielding most likely saved the day as both probes weathered the enormous radiation belts around Jupiter unscathed during their pass-by approach in 1979. Today, the probes are approximately 14.1 billion miles (22.7 billion kilometers, Voyager 1) and 11.8 billion miles (18.9 billion kilometers, Voyager 2) from Earth, thanks in no small part to the expert planning at NASA and that extra bit of off-the-shelf modification they enjoyed at the last minute.

Trivia

Very Hard

The English Phrase “Hunker Down” Was Popularized By?

Trivia

Hard

What Common Office Supply Staple Is Capable Of Generating X-Ray Radiation?

Trivia

Hard

Which Hollywood Blockbuster Reveals The Entire Plot In The First Five Minutes?

Trivia

Hard

What Did Users Of The First Automatic Teller Machine Access The Machine With?

Trivia

Hard

The Highest Flying Bird In The World Is A Type Of?

Trivia

Easy

After Whom Is The Linux Operating System Named?

Trivia

Hard

Which Annual Event Started Out As A Wedding Reception?

Trivia

Hard

The Bird Of Prey With The Largest Natural Geographic Range Is The?

Trivia

Hard

In Back To The Future, The Time Machine Was Originally Slated To Be A?

Trivia

Easy

Lincoln Logs Were Invented By?