It took 35 years to make the leap, but a plucky little spacecraft has gone where none have gone before; beyond the bounds of the solar system and into the black between stars. Voyager 1 is our first starship; the first interstellar traveler. As such, the name Voyager should be “retired” from future use to honor the mission and humans who worked to make Voyager’s journey so remarkable.
On September 11, 2013, Voyager 1 officially sailed through the outer edges of our solar system on it Interstellar Mission. After exploring the outer planets, Voyager’s primary mission is to explore the edge of the heliosphere; a huge bubble of charged particles or plasma surrounding the Sun. It popped through that bubble sometime in the summer of 2012.
In 1977, Voyager 1 launched a couple months behind its sister, Voyager 2. It was an exciting era of space exploration. Scientists dreamed up a brilliant mission to take a Grand Tour and discover much about the outer solar system. Over the next few years, Voyager dazzled us with amazing close-up images and science of Jupiter and Saturn, then Uranus and Neptune.
19 Amazing Voyager Facts
- Voyager 1 is traveling at more than 40,000 miles per hour crossing about 3.6 AU per year. Voyager 2 traverses a distance of nearly 3.3 AU per year.
- Voyager 2 was the first spacecraft to visit Uranus and Neptune
- Voyager 1 and 2 are the oldest pieces of space hardware still in contact with Earth.
- It takes a message, traveling at the speed of light, more than 17 hours to reach the Voyager 1 spacecraft.
- Even though New Horizons was launched at a faster speed than the Voyager spacecraft, the Pluto-bound probe will never overtake Voyager.
- Each Voyager spacecraft is a complex machine comprised of about 65,000 individual parts. A modern color television contains just 2,500 parts.
- In terms of mpg, Voyagers are extremely fuel efficient getting better than 30,000 miles per gallon.
- The Voyager mission has been exceptionally frugal. The mission has costed only 8 cents per year, per US resident between 1972 and now to fund the mission.
- Both Voyager spacecraft have enough fuel and power to operate until about 2020. NASA’s sensitive Deep Space Network could track the spacecraft for another century or two if not for the possibility that the spacecraft might lose their lock on the Sun.
- Five trillion bits of data, enough information to fill more than 7,000 music CDs, flowed from Voyager’s instruments to Earth.
- On September 18, 1977, Voyager 1 looked back at its homeworld and captured a three-image mosaic of the Earth and Moon. It was the first time both bodies were photographed together.
- On February 17, 1990 Voyager turns its camera toward the Sun to take the only existing snapshot of the Solar System. Voyager’s last light shows a panorama of 60, sunlight-dappled images including the now famous “Pale Blue Dot” image of Earth.
- On February 17, 1998, Voyager 1 overtook Pioneer 10 to become most distant human-made object in space.
- Voyager’s vision is so sharp that the narrow-angle television cameras could read a newspaper headline at a distance of 1 kilometer or .62 miles.
- Voyager spotted the first non-terrestrial active volcano on Jupiter’s moon Io.
- Saturn’s rings became a dazzling and complex interaction of ice particles woven by the gravitational tug of Saturn and its moons.
- Voyager 1 shows Saturn’s moon Titan is covered with a mysterious orange haze.
- Uranus has a ring. Voyager spotted a faint, dark ring around the greenish gas giant.
- Voyager 1 has traversed across more than 11 billion miles of space. That seems like a long way, and it is, but it will take Voyager 1 nearly 100,000 years to cross the distance between our Sun and the nearest star, Proxima Centauri. Alas, both spacecraft will have lonely journeys. In about 40,000 years, Voyager 1 will pass within 1.6 light-years of AC+79 3888, a star in the constellation Camelopardalis. Also in 40,000 years, Voyager 2 will drift 1.7 light-years from Ross 248 on its way toward Sirius. In 296,000 years, the tiny Earth probe will pass just 4.3 light-years from the bright star.
[sexybutton size=”xxl” color=”red” url=”http://www.change.org/petitions/national-aeronautics-space-administration-and-other-international-space-agencies-retire-the-name-voyager-for-future-spacecraft” icon=”ok”]Tell NASA to retire Voyager’s name[/sexybutton]
Join me in signing a petition to NASA and other space agencies to retire the Voyager name.