NASA engineers complete a multi-year project to completely reprogram Voyager 2 during the unmanned space probe’s five-year journey from Saturn to Uranus. A planet receiving only a fraction of the sunlight that made photography possible at Jupiter and Saturn, Uranus requires much longer exposures, slower camera shutter speeds, and incredibly precise camera tracking. To compensate for the extreme lag in comunications to and from Uranus, data compression algorithms are devised using techniques that simply didn’t exist at the time of Voyager 2’s construction and original programming, but the compression scheme is an all-or-nothing proposition: it ties up Voyager 2’s backup computer, meaning that a failure of the main computer during a critical maneuver could send the probe off-course, perhaps even colliding with the bodies it intends to study.
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