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?

  • $\begingroup$ If the fuel was unlimited, I wonder what the distance limit signal wise would be $\endgroup$
    – Skyler 440
    Oct 27, 2014 at 21:11
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    $\begingroup$ @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. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Nov 11, 2015 at 14:48

1 Answer 1


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, 2016 at 23:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Joshua with the RTGs used onboard, as the nuclear fuel depletes, the power available for usage decreases. By turning off equipment early, we reduce the power needs of the satellite as a whole, which allows it to operate even as the power output of the onboard RTGs decreases (if the power required by the satellite to function exceeds the output power of the RTGs, the satellite simply ceases to function and effectively becomes an artificial space rock). $\endgroup$ Feb 4, 2020 at 5:54

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