(WHNT) — In 1977, a pair of twins were launched into space – Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, with the intent to gift the world with its first glimpse of a close-up view of the outer solar system planets.

Voyager 2 was launched first on August 20, with Voyager 1 following suit on September 5. Both carried a Golden Record filled with greetings, sounds, pictures and music from the home planet (including Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” and a letter from then-president Jimmy Carter.

John Casani, Voyager project manager in 1977, the Golden Record (left) and its cover (right). In the background stands Voyager 2. Cape Canaveral, Fla., Aug. 4, 1977. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Their journeys were initially expected to last four years in space, gathering information about the solar system, but a mission extension in 1981 allowed Voyager 2 to fly past Uranus and Neptune, making it the only spacecraft to study all four of the solar system’s giant planets at close range.

Now, thanks to a few brilliant NASA engineers, Voyager 2’s mission has been extended yet again – this time to 2026.

Just as the space agency was getting ready to shut down one of the instruments aboard the spacecraft to help extend its life, officials found a new solution to extend its lifespan and keep all of the instruments working for a little longer.

The radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG) used for energy by both Voyagers do decay over time, which means the plutonium produces a little less power over time.

In the past, engineers shut down heaters and other non-essential systems in order to prioritize science. But tough decisions were forced upon the team with power being so low until they discovered a safety mechanism that can tap into the RTG’s reserve power.

Artist illustration shows Voyager 1 entering the space between stars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The extension will allow valuable data to be collected, including examining the sun’s magnetic field, the energy of the solar wind emanating from our sun and radio emissions in interstellar space.

To learn about the history and accomplishments of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, you can visit NASA’s official website here.