Some Mind-blowing Facts About NASA’s Voyager 1
NASA on September 12, 2013, announced that Voyager 1 has successfully left the solar system, crossing into interstellar space in August 2012.
Voyager 1 is a spacecraft that was launched in the 1970s and is still traveling and sending back data today, well beyond the scope of its initial, relatively simplistic mission. Keep reading to find out more about where Voyager 1 is today, what it is teaching us about the universe, and where it’s headed in the future.
Voyager 1 has been traveling for 44 Years
September 5, 2021, marked the 44th anniversary of the spacecraft’s launch in 1977. That makes it one of the oldest pieces of space technology that is still communicating with the Deep Space Network to receive routine commands and to transmit data to Earth.
Voyager 1 has traversed over 11 billion miles
To put this number in perspective, 11 billion miles is the equivalent of circling the Earth 440,000 times. Yet, in terms of light-years, the unit to measure space that is marked by how far light can travel in a year, Voyager 1 hasn’t even left the neighborhood. It will take 40,000 years for the spacecraft to reach only a distance of two light-years from the sun. As large as 11 billion is, space is infinitely bigger.
It was originally supposed to survey Jupiter only
The Voyager 1 and its sister ship Voyager 2 were originally designed to investigate Jupiter and Saturn up-close for the first time during a specific time frame when the planets were close together. The mission was a huge success, and from there, V1 was launched to also study some of the moons up-close, another successful mission that scientists viewed as a bonus and is performing various other missions to date.
Calling Voyager 1 takes a while
Voyager 1 is still sending scientific information about its surroundings through NASA’s Deep Space Network. A signal from the ground, traveling at the speed of light, takes about 16 hours one way to reach Voyager 1.
Carries messages for aliens
The spacecraft carries recorded messages from Earth on golden phonograph records — 12-inch, gold-plated copper disks. The records are cultural time capsules that the Voyagers bear with them to other star systems. They contain natural sounds, images, and spoken greetings in 55 languages, and musical selections from different cultures and eras.
It is powered by Plutonium
Though Voyager 1’s longevity could not have been predicted, the scientists did plan for it. When building the spacecraft, they used long-lasting plutonium batteries for fuel, and those batteries are still going strong today.
It will outlive the Earth
Eons after humans have gone extinct and well after the sun expands to swallow Earth entirely, Voyager 1 will still be traversing the universe, silently charting entirely unknown territories.
On the edge of the solar system, the Voyager 1 is still the longest continuously operating spacecraft in deep space.