Soldiering On: Humanity's Interstellar Envoys, Voyager 1 and 2, at 45

Soldiering On: Humanity’s Interstellar Envoys, Voyager 1 and 2, at 45

In the early morning hours of September 5, 1977, the launch vehicle carrying NASA’s twin Voyager spacecraft roared off the pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, marking the beginning of humankind’s first-ever attempt to explore the outer planets of our solar system and beyond. On board were two state-of-the-art space probes, identical in design and capable of myriad scientific studies including taking pictures of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune; examining their atmospheres; and searching for rings around the gas giants and ice or rock moons around their many satellites.

NASA Releases New Images of Historic Spacecraft’s Journey through the Solar System

Earlier this week NASA unveiled never-before-seen images of the historic spacecraft’s journey through the solar system. Launched in 1977 and 1981 respectively, Voyager 1 and 2 are still going strong some 40 years later—showing us distant planetary worlds as they beamed back their first data transmissions to Earth. Carrying small amounts of data onboard, the twin space probes have a humbler mission than other satellites with state-of-the-art computer systems that can handle many times more information. The resounding success of these missions has inspired future generations of scientists, engineers, programmers and mission planners to continue on with innovative ideas in space exploration.

The small onboard memory of each probe has limited their data capacity to a relative trickle compared to other space systems. However, with limited data on board and no one else to talk to in interstellar space, these spacecraft have been quietly carrying out their mission as they continue to beam back valuable data about our solar system. As scientists look over raw images sent from long-range probes like Voyager 1 it takes a great deal of work analyzing them before they’re deemed worthy for public release. This is why there’s only so much information shared by science missions with little mass media coverage—limited resources mean only those that are worth a great deal can be released for general consumption.

Final Years Expected to be Challenging but Full of Discovery

In just a few short months of its third decade in space, NASA’s Voyager 1 crossed into interstellar space for the first time in December 2004. The daring spacecraft traveled for over 27 years on an intrepid journey to reach deep into our galaxy in search of new horizons. At about 11 billion miles away from the sun and traveling at only 10 miles per second, both spacecraft may well keep going for millennia to come. As we say farewell to 2016 and approach a new year full of potential, it’s worth celebrating what has been done with these pioneers.

The spacecraft will now face challenges never before seen in their long space voyages. Their power sources won’t last forever and decades of radiation from our sun have likely already taken a toll on their delicate instruments. Yet even if they can’t be turned back on or controlled directly, it’s still possible that we could hear something from them using radio telescopes as they pass by other stars and planets. For now, though, we keep listening – but only time will tell when they speak again.

Long Live Pioneer! Celebrating Voyager’s 45th Anniversary: Before it launched in 1977 to tour Jupiter and Saturn – science only knew of one star beside our own Sun; Sol.

Next Steps

We are all the inhabitants of a country without an address. This may sound bleak, but at the same time we have a perspective on human affairs and human geography that no one else has. Who knows what we’ll learn next? Voyager 1 and 2, humanity’s interstellar envoys, soldier on at 45.

The Voyagers are both still actively returning data as they explore interstellar space. They carry a Golden Record with them, which bears recordings of human greetings in 55 languages, music from around Earth (including Blind Willie Johnson’s rendition of Dark Was the Night – Cold Was The Ground), and other sounds. These records can never be accessed by aliens. But we do believe that if you wanted to go through all that trouble to find a needle in a haystack some four billion miles away, you deserve to get your hands on an actual recording made by humans. We just hope it doesn’t say anything like Exterminate! Exterminate!

Also Read: Driverless Cars and the Road to the Future

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Slouch No More! The 8 Best Posture Correctors to Help You Stand Tall Previous post Slouch No More! The 8 Best Posture Correctors to Help You Stand Tall
Next post Goodbye, Savings: Sony Pumps Up PS5 Prices