— Little Spacecraft That Could

Voyager 1 probe has left our solar system!The Voyager 1 spacecraft is a 722-kilogram space probe launched by the US space agency, NASA, on September 5, 1977 to study the outer Solar System and interstellar medium. Voyager’s 36-year journey has covered 13 billion miles.

 

Thirty-six years after it was launched from Earth, the plutonium-powered Voyager is now more than 11.5 billion miles from the Sun in interstellar space. The US space agency said Voyager 1 actually left the solar system more than a year ago, but it only recently had enough evidence to confirm the craft had gone through the hot plasma bubble that surrounds the planets. Ed Stone, the mission chief scientist at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said: “It’s a milestone and the beginning of a new journey.”

 

Voyager 1 will now study exotic particles and other phenomena in a never-before-explored part of the universe and radio the data back to Earth. The spacecraft is carrying a gold-plated disc containing multicultural greetings, songs and photographs, in case it meets intelligent life.

 

Its journey began in 1977 when it and its twin, Voyager 2, were launched on a $988m tour of the gas giant planets. After sending back postcard views of Jupiter’s giant red spot and Saturn’s rings, Voyager 2 moved on to Uranus and Neptune. Meanwhile, Voyager 1 used Saturn as a gravitational slingshot to power itself past Pluto. The size of a small car, it carries instruments that study magnetic fields, cosmic rays and solar wind. Last year, scientists noticed strange happenings suggesting the spacecraft had broken through the heliosphere – a vast bubble of charged particles around the Sun.

 

Voyager 2 is trailing behind its twin and could take another three years before it breaks through the heliosphere. Eventually, they will run out of nuclear fuel and will have to power down their instruments, perhaps by 2025.

 

Voyager 1’s flyby of Saturn is recorded on 5thMarch, 1979. Its’ closest approach was 217,000 miles. The flyby of Saturn is recorded on 12th November 1980 and its’ closest approach was 77,000 miles. (The Earth is an average distance of 239,000 miles from the Moon. So, Voyager 1 got pretty close!

 

2. Voyager, pictured prior to its launch

 

3. Voyager, pictured prior to its launch

 

4. Voyager 1 lifting off with Titan IIIE, at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

 

5. An annotated image showing the various parts and instruments of NASA’s Voyager space probe design

 

6. The insignia of NASA’s Voyager program, showing the trajectory of the Voyager space probes from Earth, past Jupiter and on to Saturn

 

7. One of Jupiter’s moons, Lo. Lo is 100 times more active volcanically than the entire Earth.

 

8. Jupiter and it’s moon Europa

 

9. The Great Red Spot on Jupiter

 

10. Image of Jupiter

 

11. Image of Jupiter

 

 

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