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Voyager 1's long-lasting journey

Posted: September 22, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 22, 2013 2:00 a.m.

NASA announced recently that the Voyager 1 space probe has become the first spacecraft to leave our solar system and enter interstellar space. Launched September 5, 1977, Voyager was originally designed to photograph Jupiter, Saturn and the Jovian moons.  It accomplished that task in 1980 but the “Little Engine That Could” has kept on chugging to now over 11 billion miles of space travel.

The photos taken by Voyager 1 were spectacular, amazing scientists and dazzling the world. It created a new body of scientific information that was hardly imaginable previously. Now 33 years after its mission life was completed it is still collecting data and sending it back to earth from beyond the Solar System. What is truly amazing is that all of this was done with a 1970s-era spacecraft that uses an eight track tape system to store its data and a transmitter that has less wattage than a typical kitchen microwave. The technology is so old that many adults in our community have never seen an eight track tape player.

Voyager 1 has far exceeded our expectations by any standard and in interstellar space has for the most part run out of things to do. Maybe, just maybe, Voyager 1 has one more task to accomplish, the most important one of all. The little spacecraft contains a gold plated disc in case it is ever discovered by other intelligent life. The disc includes photos of life forms on Earth and sounds that range from whales to Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Good”.  Imagine that!

As we reflect on the accomplishments of Voyager 1 we are struck by the emotions that it has stirred up as the little soldier slips into the darkness of deep space. We didn’t even have a chance to say thank you or goodbye or job well done.


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