Did you know? Voyager Mission

This month . . . The Voyager mission. Launched 45 years ago they were the first spacecraft to leave the solar system and are now heading on an infinite journey to the depths of space.

The Voyager mission consisted of two identical spacecraft, Voyager 1 launched on the 5th September 1977 and Voyager 2 launched on the 20th August 1977.

Image above: This illustration shows the positions of NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes outside the heliosphere, the region surrounding our star, beyond which interstellar space begins. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The spacecraft have been traveling along different flight paths and at different speeds. They took advantage of a special alignment of the outer planets that happens once every 176 years allowing them to gravitationally "slingshot" from one planet to the next making the most of their limited fuel.

Both Voyager spacecraft carry recorded messages from Earth on thirty-centimetre gold plated records. They are meant to be a message to any intelligent life in the universe and a symbolic time capsule

Voyager 1, which is traveling up away from the plane of the planets, entered interstellar space on the 25th August 2012 becoming the first human made object to leave the solar system. This is also the same day that Neil Armstrong, first human to walk on the Moon, died.

Voyager 2, which is headed away from the Sun beneath the plane of the planets, reached interstellar space on the 5th November 2018 becoming the second human made object to leave the solar system.

Australia is still relevant to the Voyager mission. Because of the location and distance from Earth of the spacecraft the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex and the Parkes telescope are the only facilities in the world that are capable of having contact with the spacecraft.

As of 2022 Voyager 1 is about 23.3 billion kilometres or approximately 156 AU from Earth. It is the most distant artificial object from Earth. Voyager 2 has reached a distance of approximately 19.4 billion kilometres or nearly 130 AU from Earth.

Eons after humans have become extinct and well after the Sun expands to swallow Earth the Voyager spacecraft will still be traversing the universe, silently charting entirely unknown territories.