A total of 11,000 workyears was devoted to the Voyager project through the Neptune encounter. This is equivalent to one-third the amount of effort estimated to complete the great pyramid at Giza to King Cheops.
A total of five trillion bits of scientific data had been returned to Earth by both Voyager spacecraft at the completion of the Neptune encounter. This represents enough bits to fill more than seven thousand music CDs.
Each Voyager spacecraft comprises 65,000 individual parts. Many of these parts have a large number of “equivalent” smaller parts such as transistors. One computer memory alone contains over one million equivalent electronic parts, with each spacecraft containing some five million equivalent parts. Since a color TV set contains about 2500 equivalent parts, each Voyager has the equivalent electronic circuit complexity of some 2000 color TV sets.
Both Voyagers were specifically designed and protected to withstand the large radiation dosage during the Jupiter swing-by. This was accomplished by selecting radiation-hardened parts and by shielding very sensitive parts. An unprotected human passenger riding aboard Voyager 1 during its Jupiter encounter would have received a radiation dose equal to one thousand times the lethal level.
A set of small thrusters provides Voyager with the capability for attitude control and trajectory correction. Each of these tiny assemblies has a thrust of only three ounces. In the absence of friction, on a level road, it would take nearly six hours to accelerate a large car up to a speed of 48 km/h (30 mph) using one of the thrusters.
Voyager’s fuel efficiency (in terms of mpg) is quite impressive. Even though most of the launch vehicle’s 700 ton weight is due to rocket fuel, Voyager 2’s great travel distance of 7.1 billion km (4.4 billion mi) from launch to Neptune resulted in a fuel economy of about 13,000 km per liter (30,000 mi per gallon).
Barring any serious spacecraft subsystem failures, the Voyagers may survive until the early twenty-first century (~ 2025), when diminishing power and hydrazine levels will prevent further operation. Were it not for these dwindling consumables and the possibility of losing lock on the faint Sun, our tracking antennas could continue to “talk” with the Voyagers for another century or two!