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NASA Needs Plutonium

NASA’s longest running mission is the Voyager 2 space probe. It has been traveling through space for over 40 years now. In that time, it has escaped the gravitational pull of our Sun, and soon enough, it will be — along with its twin, Voyager 1 — one of the first manmade objects to leave the solar system. It now lies over 17 billion kilometers away from Earth, on the edge of interstellar space. But ever since its launch in 1977, the Voyager 2 probe has never ceased transmitting data back to NASA.

  1. Plutonium-238 also gives off very low levels of harmful gamma and neutron radiation so it doesn’t fry electronics or the people that use them.
  2. And it can be small. A sliver of plutonium-238 the size of a paperclip can provide over half a watt of electricity. So a relatively small chunk of it can power an entire spacecraft without taking up too much room.

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