05 September 2011


On this date in 1977 (the year my son was born), the Voyager 1 space probe (see image above, click to enlarge) was launched by NASA "to study the outer Solar System and eventually interstellar space. Operating for 34 years as of today, the spacecraft receives routine commands and transmits data back to the Deep Space Network. It will be the first probe to leave the Solar System and is the farthest man made object from Earth.

"Being a part of the Voyager program along with its sister craft Voyager 2, the spacecraft in extended mission, tasked with locating and studying the boundaries of the Solar System, including the Kuiper belt, the heliosphere and interstellar space. The primary mission ended November 20, 1980, after encountering the Jovian system in 1979 and the Saturnian system in 1980. It was the first probe to provide detailed images of the two largest planets and their moons."

The space probes of the Voyager program and the Pioneer program (see image below) have arguably been the most informative, productive unmanned space missions ever undertaken, with the possible exception of the Hubble Space Telescope. The knowledge gained about the planets, moons, and forces which make up our Solar System has expanded our understanding of cosmology, and given us new insight into the origins and inhabitants of our planetary neighborhood. Happy anniversary, Voyager !

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has introduced a utility called Eyes on the Solar System. The free download enables you to "explore the cosmos from your computer, hop on an asteroid, fly with NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft, and see the entire Solar System moving in real time." Enjoy.

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