Voyager ~ 40th anniversary

Scientists are always wondering how the planets in our Solar System are, how could we travel long distances in a minimum amount of time and if there could be some sign of life in other planet, in other galaxy.

Forty years ago the information that space stations had was limited. There was little data about natural satellites, planets’ atmospheres and layers. That’s why NASA created a mission:

Voyager.

There are two of them, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. First, NASA launched Voyager 2 and sixteen days later, Voyage 1. Why the #2 first? Because Voyager 2 had a longer trip. Both of the spacecrafts went to investigate Jupiter and Saturn, but only Voyager 2 went to two more planets: Uranus and Neptune.

Section from Voyage Modern Poster. Source: NASA

Date and time

Voyager 2 was launched on August 20, 1977 from Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 10:29:00 EDT. Voyager 1 was lofted into space on September 05, 1977 from the same launch complex and station at 08:56:00 EDT. First, the mission was called MJS, M for Mariner, J for Jupiter and S for Saturn, but by the year 1977 NASA was referring to the mission as Voyager instead of MJS.

The scientists in charge of the mission used the gravity from the natural satellites and planets to generate a huge gravity boost and acceleration that caused the spacecrafts to go to certain course or trayectory “easily”. (Wrote the word between quotation marks because it is easy to say it, but complex to program.)

Voyager 2 reached Neptune on August 25, 1989 — 12 years and 5 days after the spacecraft’s launch. After that encounter, the Voyager 2 was shooted to the south of the elliptic plane and Voyager 1 to the north of the elliptic plane.

From the planets the Voyagers visited and examinated, they sent cool and very important information about them.

Jupiter

Has a turbulent atmosphere with hurricane storm systems that are interacting. Erupting volcanoes cover Jupiter’s natural satellite, Io, and from the data the scientists concluded that the satellite has 100 times the volcanic activity of Earth. Io has a thick ring of ionized sulfur and oxygen that inflates the planet’s magnetic field.

Saturn

This planet has icy rings with waves, fine structure and small moons shepherding the F-ring. Titan, natural satellite, has a deep smoggy nitrogen atmosphere, like having clouds and rain of methane.

Neptune

Voyager 2 discovered Neptune’s Great Dark Spot and winds of 1,600 km per hour. Triton, Neptune’s natural satellite, has geysers erupting at -390 degrees Fahrenheit.

The mission doesn’t ends here.

Family Portrait

On February 14, 1990 Voyager 1 took a series of images and made a composition that showed six planets of the Solar System. On that date, Voyager 1 was about 40.11 AU (Astronomical Units, 1 AU equals average distance between Earth and Sun). Mercury and Mars didn’t appeared in the composition due to proximity to the Sun and light scattering. Pluto was still considered as a planet but due to its low reflectivity and distance from the Sun it couldn’t appeared in the portrait. (What a shame…)

Family Portrait. Source: Wikipedia.

The Pale Blue Dot

Literally. The Pale Blue Dot is the name that Carl Sagan gave to the image of the Earth that Voyager 1 captured. This is the most-distant photograph ever taken of the Solar System. In 1994 Sagan wrote “Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space”, where he described the photograph and gave it a deeper meaning, not just a dot.

The Pale Blue Dot. Source: NASA.
“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.
On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.” Carl Sagan

The Golden Record // The Sounds of Earth

The Golden Record is a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk. It carries a message aboard Voyager 1 and 2, like a time capsule. If some kind of civilization reaches or finds the Voyagers they can hear and read what it is inside the disk, it also contains instructions if the civilization doesn’t speak English… The contents were selected by a commitee led by Carl Sagan.

What’s on the Record?

  • 155 selected images to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth.
  • Variety of natural sounds. (Surf, wind, thunder, birds, whales, and other animals)
  • Musical selections from different cultures.
  • Spoken greetings from Earth-people in 55 languages.
  • Printed message from President Jimmy Carter.
  • Printed message from U.N. Secretary General Waldheim.
  • Scientific discoveries until that day. (Physics, Chemistry, Natural Sciences, Geology, etc…)
  • Explanation of the origin of the spacecraft.
Voyager Disco Poster. Source: NASA

The sad part of the story

Eventually the Voyagers will run out of fuel and won’t be able to communicate with Earth. They will keep going until something big enough stop them or someone/something finds them.

It’s expected that the Voyagers will stop generating power by the year 2020.

September 14, 2017

Voyager 1 is 12,996,090,501 mi or 139.80939221 AU from Earth.

Voyager 2 is 10,690,359,136 mi or 115.00478517 AU from Earth.

Check the status of the Voyagers: https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/status/


Question A: What other way would you have named the disks instead of Sounds of Earth?

Question B: What other document, photograph, image or record would you have sent inside de disks? Why?

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