Today’s planned posts got interrupted unexpectedly, perhaps the subject of another post, so here’s something short and sweet.
Voyager, the actual spacecraft of Star Trek The Movie lore may finally be exiting the solar system. This article explains what that actually means since the “edge” of the solar system is unknown and therefore that’s why this is exciting to science, we’ll know where and what the edge is when we cross it, which is expected to be very soon.
So much for that, other people can explain more useful stuff about that topic than I can,
what I find interesting is how old this thing is, launched in 1977 so presumably about 35. Without the exact stats at hand I estimate this thing is older than more than half the earth’s people. And it’s been going and going and going all this time. AND, it’s still talking to us (what is it using for power? the sun must just be a tiny star at that distance).
Voyagers were fabulously successful on the early part of their journey, discovering volcanoes on Io, really seeing Jupiter’s Red Spot, really seeing Saturn’s rings. Humanity learned more about the planets for that little spacecraft than they’d learned in all previous history. And they belong to that brave era of discovery where most of us actually wanted science to acquire new knowledge and share it with us, and, of course, when the scientists did share it we didn’t declare them frauds or having a hidden liberal agenda. We kinda respected scientists and thought they usually told the truth. How innocent we were.
I used to be a space nut when I was a kid and probably would have gone into the field until I learned how awful most of the jobs really are and how awful it is to have your job always based on begging from the government, really hard today since science is so unwelcome in modern U.S.A. since telling us the truth is not what we want to hear. But, boy, did NASA know how to build ’em back then, amazing that thing could last that long (show me your 35YO car you’re still driving). And the ground crews that have patiently monitored the two Voyagers, talk about dedication, plus they’re probably in a whole next generation from the original crew. Now that’s patience! and attention span!
So soon, for the first time in our existence, we will actually have sent something in space, since in many ways traveling the solar system is like paddling around in a bathtub and then finally heading out in the ocean. 35 years this thing has been traveling and yet it’s hardly moved at all relative to the distance of nearest stars.
The ancients, who of course thought everything was magical and god-done-it thought stars were little pinpricks in the black celestial dome just a few miles above the earth letting in the light from heaven. Now thousands of years to develop the technology and 35 years to it to travel we’re still a very long way from those stars, but at least those of us who believe science actually deals in facts now know that celestial dome is a lot further away than our ancestors thought. Of course, this leap in knowledge is exactly the reason we should continue to believe the other parts of their mythology, unchanged, on faith, 2000 years later because they were so right about stars.
Congratulations Voyager team and thanks for taking us along!