Our Signpost to Earth, Voyager 1

Voyager 1 has travelled the furthest any -made object has travelled in a straight line (well almost a straight line). We will probably and hopefully overtake it one day with future space technology but today it can bask in glory.

Voyager 1

Voyager 1

It has taken 35 years but this spacecraft is on the brink of leaving the solar system and heading into interstellar space. It is 18,000,000,000 km (18 billion) from Earth and is still producing scientific information that is interesting.

Voyager was launched on September 5, 1977 just after its sister, Voyager 2. On their way out the two spacecraft made a tour of the solar system including Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Then they were programmed to fly into interstellar space. They are travelling at 17 km/s which is 38,000 mph and lay are at the point where the sun appears the size of a dot. As there is only a little solar energy the two Voyagers are powered with nuclear batteries. Let’s hope any aliens finding the nuclear batteries don’t open the lid! In 2025 the batteries will die and the spacecraft will be dead.

Just Leaving the Solar System

Just Leaving the Solar System

They carry a message from the United States president (then it was Jimmy Carter) and United Nations chief Kurt Waldheim, a 30 cm gold plated copper record (no CDs then!) together with a cartridge and a needle to play it with. The record holds 115 images of life on Earth and sounds including music from Pygmy girls, Bach and Mozart and even Chuck Berry. There are also spoken greetings from 55 languages.

The Record

The Record

In 2004 Voyager 1 crossed a point known as the termination shock where the solar wind starts to collide with particles that come from beyond the solar system. The next zone is called the Heliosheath and then after that interstellar space begins. The boundary between the heliopause and interstellar space is probably elastic so it is hard to tell when Voyager 1 will actually pass into interstellar space permanently.

Even if the human race doesn’t last forever perhaps one day an alien spaceship will come across Voyager 1 and know we existed, perhaps not.

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