What is Voyager 1?
In the 1960’s, a program began at NASA to study the outer planets of the Solar System. To reach this goal, Voyager 1 was made at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Voyager 1 (and its twin, Voyager 2) had several mission objectives.
What is Voyager 1 Doing Now?
The Voyager craft are now in the second phase of their mission. This phase is the Voyager Interstellar Mission. The purpose of this mission is to explore beyond the outer planets.
Voyager 1 weighs 773 kilograms. This includes 105 kilograms of scientific equipment. The probe uses sixteen thrusters to move. It has a radio communication system to transmit data back to earth. This can take over 19 hours! To power the probe, Voyager uses a nuclear reactor.
Voyager has scientific instruments that allow it to complete its objectives. Spectrometers, for example, allow Voyager to analyze the atmosphere and composition of planets.
Launch and Journey
Voyager 1 launched on September 5th, 1997 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. About a year later, it began photographing the surface of Jupiter.
After leaving Jupiter, both Voyager spacecraft flew by Saturn. Voyager 1 encountered Saturn in 1980. By 1990, Voyager 1 was ready to leave the solar system! Before it moves on, it turned around and captured the first “family portrait” of the solar system.
At approximately the same time, Voyager 1 captured the famous “Pale Blue Dot” image, shown below. This picture was taken at the request of the astronomer Carl Sagan. The image continues to spark wonder in those who can finally see how small our planet really is!
Where is Voyager 1 Now?
Voyager 1 is now in an area called the “interstellar medium”. This is the area of space that exists between star systems. Voyager 1 is the first man-made object to ever reach this part of the galaxy.
What did Voyager find?
Its twin, Voyager 2, explored Neptune’s Great Dark Spot. It also found geysers in the polar cap of Neptune’s moon, Triton. Both Voyager probes have left our Solar System. Scientists hope they will make discoveries in the outer frontier of our Solar System.
The Golden Record
NASA compiled information intended to represent Earth on a golden phonograph record. They added photographs and diagrams that depicted life on earth. These represented a wide variety of human cultures. They ranged from portraits of people to food and architecture. They put music on the record, as well as spoken greetings in 55 ancient and modern languages.
The record also includes an hour-long recording of the brainwaves of Ann Druyan. During the session, Duryan thought of many topics. These included human civilization, history, and what it was like to fall in love.
NASA hopes that if aliens found this record, they would understand what life on Earth was like.