The twin Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft are exploring where nothing from Earth has flown before. Continuing on their more-than-39-year journey since their 1977 launches, they each are much farther away from Earth and the sun than Pluto. In August 2012, Voyager 1 made the historic entry into interstellar space, the region between stars, filled with material ejected by the death of nearby stars millions of years ago.
Scientists hope to learn more about this region when Voyager 2, in the “heliosheath” — the outermost layer of the heliosphere where the solar wind is slowed by the pressure of interstellar medium — also reaches interstellar space. Both spacecraft are still sending scientific information about their surroundings through the Deep Space Network, or DSN.
The primary mission was the exploration of Jupiter and Saturn. After making a string of discoveries there — such as active volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io and intricacies of Saturn’s rings — the mission was extended. Voyager 2 went on to explore Uranus and Neptune, and is still the only spacecraft to have visited those outer planets. The adventurers’ current mission, the Voyager Interstellar Mission (VIM), will explore the outermost edge of the Sun’s domain. And beyond.
“NASA continues to communicate with them daily as they explore the frontier where interstellar space begins.“
NASA and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum will celebrate 40 years of the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft — humanity’s farthest and longest-lived mission — with a public event at 9:30 a.m. PDT(12:30 p.m. EDT), Tuesday, Sept. 5.
The observance will take place at the Smithsonian’s museum located at Independence Avenue at 6th street SW in Washington. The event will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency’s website.
Activities will include panel discussions about the Voyagers’ creation and mission history, their unprecedented science findings and imagery, impact on Earth’s culture and how the spacecraft inspired countless scientists, engineers and the next generation of explorers. The event also will include a galactic message transmitted toward the Voyager 1 spacecraft by a celebrity guest.
The Voyagers’ original mission was to explore Jupiter and Saturn. Although the twin spacecraft are now about 13 billion miles or roughly 21 billion kilometers from Earth, far beyond the planets in the solar system, NASA continues to communicate with them daily as they explore the frontier where interstellar space begins.
Participants in the Sept. 5 event are:
- Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington
- Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist, Caltech, Pasadena, California
- Suzanne Dodd, Voyager project manager, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena
- Gary Flandro, Voyager Mission Grand Tour creator, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
- Alan Cummings, Voyager researcher, Caltech
- Ann Druyan, writer/producer, Golden Record Visionary
- Morgan Cable, researcher, JPL
- Eric Zirnstein, researcher, Princeton University, New Jersey
- Matthew Shindell, curator, National Air and Space Museum
The public can ask questions on social media using #AskNASA.
This story was written for JPL/NASA. Materials may be edited for content and length.
Discover More: https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov