They are part of an ancient quest…To push beyond our boundaries… to see what lies beyond the horizon. Now tens of billions of kilometers from Earth, two spacecraft are streaking out into the void. What will we learn about the Galaxy, the Universe, and ourselves from Voyager’s epic Journey to the stars?
December 19, 1972… the splashdown of the Apollo 17 crew capsule marked the end of the golden age of manned spaceflight. The Mercury…. Gemini… and Apollo programs had proven that we could send people into space… To orbit the Earth…. Fly out beyond our planet…
Then land on the moon and walk among its ancient craters. The collective will to send people beyond our planet faded in times of economic uncertainty, war, and shifting priorities. And yet, just five years after Apollo ended, scientists launched a new vision that was just as profound and far-reaching.
Now on the fringes of our solar system, the two voyager craft are about to venture out into interstellar space. They will endure long after everything man has ever built crumbles to dust. Along the way, they revealed a solar system rich beyond our imagining. According to project leader, Ed Stone:
Time after time we were surprised by seeing things we had not expected or even imagined; volcanoes erupting from the moon, Io, the possibility of a liquid water ocean under the icy crust of Europa, Titan, where we found an atmosphere, Uranus’ small moon, Miranda, which had one of the most complex surfaces we’d seen. Even at Neptune, 40 degrees above absolute 0, even there, there were geysers erupting.
It’s the only spacecraft that has gone by Uranus. It’s the only spacecraft that has gone by Neptune. Everything we know about those planets, we know from Voyager.
The journey was made possible by a rare alignment of the planets, a configuration that occurs only once every 176 years. That enabled the craft to go from planet to planet, accelerating as they entered the gravitational field of one, then flying out to the next.
The Voyagers carried a battery of scientific equipment to collect data on the unknown worlds in their path. That included a pair of vidicom cameras. They are primitive by today’s standards, but that didn’t stop them from returning a flurry of discoveries.