Forty Years of Voyaging

On September 5, 1977, we launched Voyager 1. Where is Voyager 1 now after forty years? And more importantly, where are we?

According to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Voyager 1 is 12,975,886,790 miles from Earth (19 hours if traveling at light speed). Voyager 1 has officially gone “Interstellar” and is officially out of our solar system. It just went 300 more miles into the farthest reaches of space since reading this sentence.

I can’t help but sit in total wonder thinking about the questions that turned Voyager into a reality. Initially, the program was set to last only 5 years and explore two planets. But a bigger vision led it to explore all the outer planets, 48 moons and things never before seen. An idea for the greatest adventure into the unknown, manifested as a tiny space ship, is still flying today, still sending messages back home and still remembered.

We live in an age of “what‘s next?” New products, services, content, things and stuff updated daily, thrown away weekly and forgotten monthly. Our focus on getting the next answer to nearly everything is such a juxtaposition to a tiny ship sent in 1977 into a sea of stars built around a different question.

“What if?”

In fact, the team did a lot more than ask a single “what if” question. Every part of the mission was built on a never ending stream of “what if’s”. Because “what’s next” was completely unknown. Perhaps in that unabashed ignorance is our humanity. Our ability to be limitless in our reach into the “what if”.

Our everyday realities change by the second with new things to consume, new things to use, new things to want. But Voyager continues to last far beyond those disposable ideas. It continues to speed into the unknown every second on the basis of “what if”.

On this anniversary of the launch of Voyager 1, I can’t help wonder how much farther we could all go by saying “what if” instead of asking “what’s next?”

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