Friday, 10 June 2011

The Voyagers - still discovering

Any machine that is 34 years old is considered pretty useless and knackered here on Earth. How many 34 year old cars do you see on the roads, or 34 year old computers. And yet the Voyager Spacecraft, launched nearly 34 years ago are still going strong. They are the furthest objects launched by mankind, that are still going strong. And today, 34 years from their launch, they are still providing information, answering questions and raising even more problems for scientists as their discoveries change the way we look at oursevles in the Solar System.

At the moment they are on the boundary of interstellar space. For the non-space geeks out there, this is the place where our sun influence comes to a halt and the influence of the rest of the Galaxy comes into play. In reality, this is a boundary that is defined by humans rather than by any law of actuality, as we are still discovering. But nonetheless, before the power packs of these spacecraft die out, they will have begun to tell us of space that is far beyond the Solar System. Fascinating to think that when these spacecraft where launched, the hope was to get to the Outer Planets. Now that they have achieved this, they are still going strong, telling us so much more than their original design intent.

I am a space geek, and I was fascinated by the Voyagers during the 1980's when they went past Uranus and more fascinatingly, Neptune. And now they are at the edge of the Solar System, telling us more of what lies beyond. Should they reach the edge of the Sun's influence before they power packs die out, they may tell us the first glimpses of Interstellar Space. The next time a probe will do that will be in 2029, when the New Horizons Craft leaves the Solar System. Should I live that long, I will have to wait until my 'yet to have' children have grown up before more information is received from the rest of the Galaxy. Wow. That is far into the future, and yet, a mere blip in the span of the cosmos...

Clickity links:

Voyager at the Edge of the Solar System by NASA - a great video, watch it!

BBC Article from Yesterday.