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35 years since the Voyager 1 spacecraft was launched

CommunityJames Hipkiss


The Voyager 1 spacecraft was launched by NASA in 1977 to study the outer Solar System and interstellar medium. Operating for 35 years as of today (5 September 2012), the spacecraft receives routine commands and transmits data back to the Deep Space Network.

At a distance of 120 astronomical units (1.8x1010 km) it is the farthest manmade object from Earth. Voyager 1 is now in the heliosheath, which is the outermost layer of the heliosphere. On 15 June 2012, NASA scientists reported that Voyager 1 may be very close to entering interstellar space and becoming the first manmade object to leave the Solar System. Being a part of the Voyager program with its sister craft Voyager 2, the spacecraft is in extended mission, tasked with locating and studying the boundaries of the Solar System, including the Kuiper belt, the heliosphere and interstellar space.

The primary mission ended November 20, 1980, after encountering the Jovian system in 1979 and the Saturnian system in 1980. It was the first probe to provide detailed images of the two largest planets and their moons. Each Voyager space probe carries a gold-plated audio-visual disc in the event that either spacecraft is ever found by intelligent life-forms from other planetary systems.

The discs carry photos of the Earth and its lifeforms, a range of scientific information, spoken greetings from people (e.g. the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President of the United States) and a medley, Sounds of Earth, that includes the sounds of whales, a baby crying, waves breaking on a shore, and a collection of Earth music, including works by Mozart and Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode.