Just think, back in 1977, before most of staff at United Academics were born, NASA launched the first Voyager spacecraft that is still going today! 35 years of traveling has taken the spacecraft over 18 billion kilometers from the earth, and brought us some of the first images of far away planets and discovered moons we never knew about. As if all its achievements weren’t cool enough, scientists now see signs that Voyager may be close to becoming the first human made object to ever leave our solar system! Talk about hard to fathom.
When it comes to measuring huge distances in space, we all know of the term light year. And while the use of the terms is more familiar from fictional world’s like Star Wars or Star Trek, Voyager is now almost 1 light day away from the earth. The radio signals that the craft continues to transmit now take 16 hours to reach our planet. How does it keep traveling? Voyager is powered by plutonium that is powerful enough to keep going for another decade. Even more mind blowing, even after the radio signals stop the spacecraft will keep going, though it will take 40,000 years before it gets close to another star. 40,000 years to get to a star. I’ll let you think about that for a moment and be sure and look at a star in the sky tonight.
NPR recently spoke with a number of the scientists still working on the Voyager project. It is highly recommended listening, especially when you can hear that these old men were young dreamers back in the 70′s, and their ideas not only succeeded, they’re exceeding every expectation in dramatic fashion. Oh and one more hilarious detail, the ship has an 8 track recorder (bonus points if you ever used one) and a golden record with sounds from the 70′s in case it encounters intelligent life that have a record player handy.
Photo: FlyingSinger / flickr