Scott: Huge news from NASA today. Some say it is as big as the time we were able to first go all the way around the globe. Others say it might be as big as the first steps on the moon! Maggie Rulli has more.
Maggie: Voyager 1 has been hurtling through space for thirty-six years and yesterday it crossed a new frontier.
More than 11 billion miles from the sun, Voyager 1 is the first spacecraft to ever leave our solar system and venture into the beyond.
Ed Stone: We’re on a journey to the edge of the bubble the sun creates around itself.
Maggie: In 1977, lead scientist Ed Stone signed on for an exciting new mission…
Stone: And we have liftoff.
Maggie: …To help launch spacecraft Voyager 1 and its sister craft, Voyager 2, in order to get an up-close look at our solar system.
Stone: It’s a great mission. I’ve been very fortunate to have been on it right from the beginning.
Maggie: Voyager 1 is still exploring space. And now that it has left our solar system, it is in an area called interstellar space, and that is a region that has never before been explored. So, scientists are really excited to see what is out there. Voyager 1 will be able to study things like exotic particles and then radio that data back home to Earth.
While working in interstellar space, Voyager will rely on technology that is definitely old school. Compared to the cell phone that you use every day, Voyager 1 is a lot less complicated.
Stone: By many factors of ten.
Maggie: Incoming data is recorded on an 8-track tape. That is technology from the 70s! Even today’s smallest iPods have 100,000 times more memory.
And just in case Voyager 1 is discovered by aliens, each craft carries a gold disc with the sights and sounds of Earth and has detailed instructions on how to play it just like an album from the 70s.
But don’t discount this as just old equipment because it has actually found some pretty amazing discoveries.
Stone: Before Voyager, the only known active volcanoes were right here on Earth, and then we found a moon of Jupiter called Io which has ten times more volcanic activity!
Maggie: Voyager found out that Jupiter’s big red spot was just one of many massive storms on the giant planet. Those wondrous rings of Saturn? They are actually thousands of tiny bands of ice and debris. Voyager even turned the camera around and showed us what we look like from millions of miles away in space.
Stone: This mission probably has had more discoveries than any other planetary mission’s ever had.
Maggie: But the journey’s of both Voyager 1 and 2 are limited. In order to conserve power, the Voyager mission is slowly being shut down.
Stone: By 2025, we will have to turn off the last instrument. It will be a sad day but in terms of what we’ve learned, it’s been an amazing journey.
Maggie: Maggie Rulli, Channel One News.
Scott: Can you imagine what an alien might think if came across one of those disks in the Voyager probes? Pretty crazy!