Voyager Mission: A journey to interstellar space

Voyager Mission: A journey to interstellar space

Let’s assume, if somehow planet earth has witnessed an extinction to the mankind then is there any chance that someday an evolved species so-called “aliens”, they would ever able to know the existence of the human in the universe. If you think of the same question as me, then you would be excited to know that the aliens would know about the humans for sure by “Voyager Mission”. But, How…? In this post, you would know about all this. So without any further ado, let’s get started.

Voyager Mission

NASA launched two Voyager probes (Voyager-1 and Voyager-2) in 1977 to explore the outer planets of our solar system. NASA launched Voyager 2 on August 20, 1977, while Voyager 1 launched on September 5, 1977.

Since then, both the spacecraft have been traveling along different flight paths. Voyager 1 has been already passed the boundary of interstellar space, while Voyager 2 would have been passed the solar system boundary in next few years.

Voyager spacecraft

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, keep the eye on both the spacecraft. Both are still sending key information about the universe through NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Longest mission in the NASA’s history

NASA launched the Voyager spacecraft in 1977 to take advantage of a rare alignment among the four planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) that would not take place for another 175 years.

A spacecraft visiting each planet could use a gravitational assist (also called Gravitational Slingshot) to fly on to the next one, saving on fuel. Both spacecraft passed a milestone of 40 years operating in space.

Voyager 1 in the solar system (graphical representation)

The primary five-year mission of the Voyagers included the close-up exploration of Jupiter and Saturn, Saturn’s rings and the larger moons of the two planets. The mission was extended after a succession of discoveries. After passing by Saturn in 1980, Voyager 1 made a sharp turn out with the assist of gravitation of the plane of the solar system.

The two spacecraft have explored all the giant outer planets of our solar system (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) as well as 49 moons.

Note: On Aug. 13, 2011, Voyager 2 became NASA’s longest-operating mission when it broke the previous record of 12,758 days of operation set by the Pioneer 6 probe, which launched on Dec. 16, 1965.

Passes the boundary of Interstellar space

Since passing the boundary of interstellar space in 2012, Voyager 1 is examining the intensity of cosmic radiation and also looking at how the sun’s charged particles are interacting with particles from other stars. Voyager 2 is still traveling within the solar system but is expected to reach the boundary of interstellar space in the next few years.

As of February 2018, Voyager 1 is roughly 141 Astronomical Units (1 AU= Distance between Sun-Earth) (about 13.2 billion miles or 21.2 billion kilometers) from Earth, while Voyager 2 is about 117 AU (about 10.9 billion miles or 17.5 billion kilometers) from Earth.

Voyager 1 passes the solar system boundary

Note: You can track them on NASA’s official website.

The Voyager spacecraft are expected to keep transmitting information until roughly 2025. In 2017, NASA announced that it was able to reuse backup-thrusters on the Voyager 1 spacecraft to improve its ability to point toward Earth. This will allow it to send and receive information from controllers for another two to three years.

The Golden Records

Both Voyager spacecraft carry recorded messages from Earth on golden phonograph records, a 12-inch gold-plated copper disks. The late astronomer Carl Sagan selected the contents of the records on the discs for NASA.

These records are called the “Golden Records”  include cultural time capsules which contain images and natural sounds, spoken greetings in 55 languages and musical selections from different cultures and eras.

The Golden Record

Some achievements and milestones set by Voyager mission

  • Found active volcanoes on Io (moon) of Jupiter, as well as a “torus” (a ring of sulfur and oxygen that Io is shedding).
  • Discovered a Great Dark Spot on Neptune, which is a large storm.
  • Saw evidence of an ocean beneath Europa (icy moon) of Jupiter.
  • Looked in detail at Saturn’s rings; observed waves, structure and “shepherd moons” that influence the shape of its F-ring.
  • Saw active geysers on Triton (icy moon) of Neptune.
  • Saw evidence of an atmosphere around Titan (a moon of Saturn), which scientists correctly identified as being composed largely of methane.
  • Examined Jupiter’s atmosphere, including its hurricanes.

Eternal journey

Even after shutting off, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 will continue to drift out in interstellar space; they will both pass by other stars in about 40,000 years.

Though Voyager 1 is not heading towards any particular star, in about 40,000 years, it will pass within 1.6 light-years of the star Gliese 445, which is at present in the constellation Camelopardalis. That star is generally moving towards the Solar System at about 119 km/s (430,000 km/h; 270,000 mph). NASA says that “The Voyagers are destined – perhaps eternally to wander the Milky Way.”

Voyager 2 is not headed toward any particular star, although in roughly 40,000 years it should pass 1.7 light-years from the star Ross 248. And if undisturbed for 296,000 years, Voyager 2 should pass by the star Sirius at a distance of 4.3 light-years. Voyager 2 is expected to keep transmitting weak radio messages until at least 2025, over 48 years after it was launched.

Voyager 1 & Voyager 2

So that’s it for today guys. Did you enjoy reading this article? If so, then please share it. If you have any suggestions and queries related to the post, let me know in the comment section below. Please do like and share this post to your circle to explore the knowledge you must know.

Thank you.

Anil Kashyap

I want to explore new things every single moment of life. Life motto: Learn and teach as much as you can until your last breath.

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