Friday, September 13, 2013

35 Years and 11,000,000,000 Miles On

That's an image of Voyager 1's radio signal from 21 February.

Yesterday, NASA confirmed that the Voyager 1 became the first man-made object to leave our solar system and enter interstellar space.

Think about that for a minute. Look what we've been able to do when we put our minds and dedicate our hearts to it. We now have an emissary in the vastness of the cosmos, in the cold vacuum of space, completely outside of our solar system.

That's amazing. That's inspiring.

Voyager 1 launched in 1977. I remember seeing photos from Voyager as a very young child, and it was one of the many things that fostered my fascination with the stars and the planets. I dreamed--as others have dreamed--of a future where outer space was a common part of our daily lives. Who knew what we would put up there? Would we colonize the moon? Would be send manned ships to Mars? Would there be a time in my life when I could, conceivably, go into outer space?

Progress has been slow, but it's been there. We've been slower to shed our materialism and a near-constant cycle of warring as quickly as it once seemed like maybe we could. But things like this give me real hope.

What will we see of Voyager 1 in the future? Will we see anything at all? It's predicted that its Data Tape Recorder will terminate operations next year, and its gyroscopic operations the year after. In 2020 its scientific instruments will start to shut down, and by 2030 it will no longer be able to power any of its instruments at all.

I wonder what will happen to it. Will future generations be able to retrieve it somehow? Will it collide with something? Will it come into contact with another civilization? It's headed out towards nothing in particular, but will come within 1.6 light years of the star Gliese 445, in the Camelopardalis constellation in 40,000 years, assuming it continues on its current course.

I wonder what things on Earth will be like in 40,000 years.

I wonder if there will be anyone here to wonder about the ultimate fate of Voyager 1.

1 comment:

New York Erratic said...

We're covering deep time and deep space in the classes I'm teaching right now. :-) Might have a question on Voyager on one of my upcoming exams.

You, sir, have inspired a blog post. :-)