If NASA greenlights this interstellar mission, it could last 100 years | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN

If NASA greenlights this interstellar mission, it could last 100 years

NASA's twin Voyager spacecraft, launched in 1977, have been traveling for so long that they've left our solar system. Amazingly, these venerable probes still talk to Earth, but their plutonium-powered energy supply is getting ever closer to running out.

That's why NASA asked a team of scientists and engineers to come up with a successor mission that could pick up where the Voyagers left off. The group, which will finish a report on their work within weeks, has designed a practical, doable spacecraft that could go faster than the Voyagers and much farther out into interstellar space.

A mission to last a century — or more

If NASA decides to build this probe, it could launch in 2036 and boldly venture forth for a minimum of 50 years and possibly more than a century. That means it would have the longest planned duration of any NASA mission, by a long shot.

Agency officials would have to cope with all of its technology inevitably going obsolete — to say nothing of all the people involved in the mission getting older and dying.

"It's always hard to talk about transition plans," says Ralph McNutt of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, who leads the team working on this proposed mission. "Typically, it hasn't really been happening in most space missions. But on this one, it's going to be front and center."