The Voyager Missions – The explorers


40 years and still counting

40 years ago when Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, the twin unmanned spaceships were launched about two weeks apart from Cape Canaveral, Florida, no one ever thought that they will become the spaceships that would travel further than any human-made object in history.
It has already covered more than 13 billion miles and still travelling deep into the space……….. Isn’t it amazing!!!!

About mission

Voyager 2 was launched first, on August 20, followed by Voyager 1 on September 5, 1977 on a faster, shorter trajectory that would eventually take it into the lead.

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Its main mission was to explore other planets including Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune, but it also carried the story of humanity into deep space.

On board each Voyager contains key information about humanity and life on planet Earth like some sounds and images, in case of an alien encounter.
The sounds include the calls of humpback whales, Chuck Berrys song Johnny B. Goode, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, a Japanese shakuhachi (a type of flute), a Pygmy girls’ initiation song, and greetings in 55 languages.
The voice of Late American astronomer Carl Saga’s son is also there and it says “Hello, from the children of planet Earth”.

A total of 115 images are encoded in analog form, including the Great Wall of China, telescopes, sunsets, elephants, an airport, a train, a breastfeeding mother, dolphins and images of the human sex organs.
The beauty of this mission is that the timing of the mission took advantage of a rare planetary alignment that only happens every 175 years, along with “gravity-assist” boosts from passing by planets that minimized the fuel needed.

Discoveries by Voyager

The Voyagers have set numerous records in their unparalleled journeys. In 2012, Voyager 1 became the only spacecraft to have entered interstellar space and Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to have flown by all four outer planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Their numerous planetary encounters include discovering the first active volcanoes beyond Earth, on Jupiter’s moon Io, hints of a subsurface ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa, the most Earth-like atmosphere in the solar system, on Saturn’s moon Titan, icy moon Miranda at Uranus and icy-cold geysers on Neptune’s moon Triton.

Current position of Voyager

Voyager 1, now almost 13 billion miles from Earth, travelling through interstellar space northward out of the plane of the planets and Voyager 2, now almost 11 billion miles from Earth is travelling in south and is expected to enter interstellar space in the next few years.

In addition to this……

We should thank the foresight of the mission designers who had designed both the missions in such a way that they have designed the spacecrafts to tackle the environment of the Jupiter which is harshest amongst all planets which made the spacecraft well equipped for its journey in the interstellar space.
Also, both Voyagers are equipped with long-lasting power supplies and redundant systems that allow the spacecraft to switch to backup systems autonomously when necessary. Other than this each Voyager carries radioisotope thermoelectric generators which uses the heat energy generated from the decay of plutonium-238 – only half of it will be gone after 88 years.

The voyager spacecrafts were built by JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) which is also responsible for the operation of both. But the team members are estimating that they have to turn off the last scientific instrument by 2030.

However, even after the spacecraft go silent, they’ll continue on their trajectories at their present speed of more than 30,000 mph (48,280 kilometers per hour), completing an orbit within the Milky Way every 225 million years.

So, this year on 5th September, let’s celebrate 40 successful years of the Voyager and let’s hope for more amazing results from the Voyager Missions…

By,
Yogesh,
SPACE Educator

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