Tuesday, 13 December 2011

To infinity and Beyond - the Voyagers keep Voyaging!

Voyager 1 about to leave the Solar System.

I grew up in the 1980's and space has always fascinated me. I have a telescope (shocking as in London light pollution makes star gazing crap, but I still love it), I have always watched the Sky at Night and as a kid, books about the Universe engrossed me long before Wikipedia entries became standard internet browsing fodder.

And when I was a kid, the Voyager Spacecraft where amazing. They enthralled my imagination and I was hooked on all things space because of them. Two long distance probes that had shown us the wonders of Jupiter and Saturn. And where hurtling to distant Uranus and Neptune. I do not remember the coverage of the Uranus flyby, but I do remember the news reels of Neptune's visit. The Great Blue Spot, Neptune's rings and Geysers on Triton, Neptune's largest moon. These things fascinated me.

And as I mentioned previously on this blog, what is amazing is that after all this time, the Voyagers are still Voyaging. The Interstellar Mission, to find out the edge of the Solar System. The two spacecraft are still continuing to discover and amaze humanity. Who could have thought that 1970's technology would still be working usefully today, as our most far flung ambassadors, as a symbol of the hope and prosperity of America at the time and as a statement of hope. That we, as a species will keep on exploring, pushing the boundaries of our knowledge further, because we can, because there are questions to be answered because of our innate curiosity. And why not? In an age when budgets where abstract concerns and when there was a hope of looking far beyond the petty view of humanity. The Voyagers represent the very best of what we had to offer to the Universe.

The amazing thing is that they are running, and they look like they will continue to discover more about the Interstellar Medium, the universe beyond our Solar System, some forty or even fifty years after they were launched in 1977. A remarkable legacy for the pair of spacecraft. Far beyond what their creators could have ever hoped to have achieved. A legacy to great design and of course due to expert planning which included the Pioneer Probes - without them, the Voyagers would not have gone beyond the orbit of Jupiter.

One day, the Voyager Spacecraft will cease to function. Like all good things, they will come to an end. But for now, against the turbulent boundary of our Solar System, they are telling us about what lies beyond our Sun's bubble. It is a fascinating privilege to be witness to this, and there will probably not be another spacecraft in my lifetime that will be able to do such a thing. So I will enjoy this moment, along with the rest of the world, and voyaging with the Voyagers. It is thrilling to be on the edge of something so great and it really puts into perspective, despite our petty bickering and disputes, just how small we are in the cosmos.


magiceye said...

:) tell it to the megalomaniacs!

el director! said...

@magiceye - exactly!