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Voyager 1 and 2 are the most distant man made objects. How long will we be able to still communicate with them? What will be the first thing that prevents communication? RTG exhaustion? Signal attenuation over the vast distance? Something else?

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  • $\begingroup$ If the fuel was unlimited, I wonder what the distance limit signal wise would be $\endgroup$ – Skyler 440 Oct 27 '14 at 21:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Skyler440 Assuming accurate tracking, we could build larger and larger antenna setups on Earth to largely compensate for the weaker signals. It would be far from cheap to do so, but in terms of the technology needed, to a large degree it's a solved problem. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Nov 11 '15 at 14:48
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Popular Mechanics had a neat article about it last year. Bottom line, nobody knows. We will lose communication with the probes at some point in the next 10-15 years because the fuel supply will run out. The probes are powered by nuclear reactors and scientists expect them to be depleted sometime in the 2020's. They have been proactively shutting down systems in order to conserve fuel and extend the life of the probes, but there is no hard and fast date they expect to lose communications.

Source: Voyager 1&2

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    $\begingroup$ It is interesting to note that turning off equipment early would not extend the lifetime. Any unused power is wasted. $\endgroup$ – Joshua Mar 22 '16 at 23:09

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