Voyager spacecraft still reaching for the stars and setting records after 40 years

Posted: August 2, 2017 by oldbrew in Astrophysics, research, solar system dynamics, Travel

These two 1977 vintage machines really are ‘cosmic overachievers’ as this report calls them. Voyager 1 reached interstellar space in 2012, but the last science instrument is not due to be switched off until 2030.

Humanity’s farthest and longest-lived spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, achieve 40 years of operation and exploration this August and September.

Despite their vast distance, they continue to communicate with NASA daily, still probing the final frontier. Their story has not only impacted generations of current and future scientists and engineers, but also Earth’s culture, including film, art and music.

Each spacecraft carries a Golden Record of Earth sounds, pictures and messages. Since the spacecraft could last billions of years, these circular time capsules could one day be the only traces of human civilization.

“I believe that few missions can ever match the achievements of the Voyager spacecraft during their four decades of exploration,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) at NASA Headquarters. “They have educated us to the unknown wonders of the universe and truly inspired humanity to continue to explore our solar system and beyond.”

The Voyagers have set numerous records in their unparalleled journeys. In 2012, Voyager 1, which launched on Sept. 5, 1977, became the only spacecraft to have entered interstellar space. Voyager 2, launched on Aug. 20, 1977, is the only spacecraft to have flown by all four outer planets—Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Their numerous planetary encounters include discovering the first active volcanoes beyond Earth, on Jupiter’s moon Io; hints of a subsurface ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa; the most Earth-like atmosphere in the solar system, on Saturn’s moon Titan; the jumbled-up, icy moon Miranda at Uranus; and icy-cold geysers on Neptune’s moon Triton.

Though the spacecraft have left the planets far behind—and neither will come remotely close to another star for 40,000 years—the two probes still send back observations about conditions where our Sun’s influence diminishes and interstellar space begins.

Continued here.

  1. Tallbloke, Isn’t nuclear powered spaceships wonderful. Thank you for this wonderful story! Alex

  2. Annie says:

    Thankyou Tallbloke. It’s an astonishing accomplishment and really sets the imagination soaring. What a great, if temporary, antidote to your top thread re South Australia.

    Now I should go and play Gustav Holst’s ‘The Planets’;an amazing bit of music if it is really listened to.

  3. craigm350 says:

    Reblogged this on CraigM350 and commented:
    Great story

  4. oldbrew says:

    From the edge of the solar system, Voyager probes are still talking to Australia after 40 years
    August 18, 2017 by John Sarkissian, The Conversation

    ‘running on power equivalent to the light bulb in your refrigerator’
    . . .
    ‘two spacecraft no bigger than small buses, two brilliant robots with an eight track tape deck to record data and 256kB of memory’

    Read more at:

  5. oldbrew says:

    Forty years on, Voyager still hurtles through space
    August 27, 2017

    Scientists still hear from the Voyager spacecraft daily, and expect to get data for about another decade.

    “It is still discovering new things because it is going where nothing has been before”

    Read more at:

  6. oldbrew says:

    Voyager 1 at 40: Scientists ‘amazed’ 1970s space probe still works

    The Voyager 1 and 2 space probes were launched 40 years ago and continue to send back data from the outer solar system and interstellar space, despite relying on technology developed in the 1970s.
    [+ short video]