NASA’s venerable Voyager 1 spacecraft has reached a major milestone.
The Voyager 1 The probe was launched 45 years ago, on September 5, 1977, just weeks after its twin Voyager 2 but quickly overtaken. The two spacecraft are designed to fly over Jupiter and Saturn, taking advantage of a favorable advantage Solar System alignment. At the time, no one expected the spacecraft to still be operating after more than four decades. But now, Voyager spans nearly 50 years in space. Voyager 1 is currently more than 14.6 billion miles (23.5 billion km) from a land This distance is more than 157 times the distance from our planet to the Sun – and it travels outward at 38,000 miles per hour (60,000 km/h).
“Today, as both Voyagers explore interstellar space, they provide humanity with observing uncharted territory,” said Linda Spilker, deputy Voyager project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California. statement (Opens in a new tab).
Voyager 1 in particular has something to celebrate this anniversary, since NASA recently managed to do so Bug fix That caused the spacecraft to depend on a non-functioning computer, which resulted in the probe sending nonsense data back to Earth.
Although mission personnel have put the spacecraft back on course, they are still researching why this switch was initiated, according to a NASA statement.
After the 1977 launch, mission milestones came quickly. Voyager 1 got its first look at Jupiter in April 1978 and made its closest approach to the massive planet in March 1979. The spacecraft also caught glimpses of Jupiter’s moons, including Io, the strange volcanic surface revealed by Voyager 1.
Then direct the probe to Saturn Its largest moon, Titan, flew over it in November 1979, just two years after its launch. Voyager 1’s turn for a closer look at Titan means it hasn’t made any other flights; Instead, its twin Voyager 2 continued to sail to Uranus and Neptune.
Voyager 1 became the most distant human-made object in 1998, According to NASA (Opens in a new tab)It was marked 100 times from the Earth to the Sun in 2006.
In 2012, Voyager 1 entered interstellar space, the region behind the heliosphere, which is the bubble made up of charged particles constantly flowing from the sun into space. Outside the heliosphere, spacecraft record much more cosmic rays – Fragments of atoms spewing through space – from solar particles.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to study how a star, and our sun, interact directly with particles and magnetic fields outside our heliosphere,” Spilker added, helping scientists understand the local interstellar neighborhood, overturning some theories about this region and providing information essential for future missions.”
Although four instruments on the Voyager 1 probe are still collecting data to send back to Earth, mission personnel anticipate that they will need to turn off additional instruments over time and the probe’s nuclear power source is weakening.
Eventually, the twin probes will fall silent – although they will continue to zip through space for billions of years.
“Voyager has continued to make amazing discoveries, and has inspired a new generation of scientists and engineers,” Susan Dodd, Voyager project manager at JPL, said in the same statement. “We don’t know how long the mission will last, but we can be sure the spacecraft will deliver more science surprises as it travels away from Earth.”
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