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Voyager at 40: Humanity’s ambitious expedition into interstellar space

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On August 20, 1977, NASA launched the Voyager 2 space probe, following it with Voyager 1‘s launch on September 5th, 1977. Together, the two spacecrafts are one of humanity’s most ambitious expeditions into space. Taking advantage of a rare alignment of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, they’ve continued on into the outermost layer of the heliosphere (V2) and into interstellar space (V1), farther than any human-made object has traveled before. Above, The New Yorker chronicles The Story of the Voyager Expedition. A summary from NASA:

The Voyager spacecraft are the third and fourth human spacecraft to fly beyond all the planets in our solar system. Pioneers 10 and 11 preceded Voyager in outstripping the gravitational attraction of the Sun but on February 17, 1998, Voyager 1 passed Pioneer 10 to become the most distant human-made object in space.

Both Voyager spacecrafts carry a greeting to any form of life, should that be encountered. The message is carried by a phonograph record – -a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. The contents of the record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University. Dr. Sagan and his associates assembled 115 images and a variety of natural sounds. To this they added musical selections from different cultures and eras, and spoken greetings from Earth-people in fifty-five languages.

Listen to the Golden Record, courtesy of NASA:

It’s predicted that Voyager 1 will run out of power around 2025. In celebration of its launch 40 years ago, NASA JPL explains where they are and how they’re still communicating with these ‘remote ambassadors’ even though Voyager 1 is almost 13 billion miles from Earth.

The Vox team also tries to visualize how far away Voyager 2 is from Earth with photos taken on (and off) Governor’s Island in New York City: Voyager 2’s 11 billion mile journey at a human scale.

Watch more videos from the Voyager mission: Raw Footage of Jupiter from Voyager 1 (1979), Outer Space: sequences from NASA’s Cassini and Voyager missions, The Captured Ice Moon: Voyager 2 and Neptune’s moon Triton, and as always, Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot.

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