The Voyager 1 spacecraft made history today in its epic crossing into unknown territory, being the first man-made object to leave the solar system.
The Voyager 1 became the farthest man-made object from earth today, 36 years after its initial launch. Originally launched two weeks after its partner spacecraft, the Voyager 2, the spacecraft has coasting into history books over the past three decades. With NASA's announcement, the Voyager 1 has now been named the first man-made object to move into interstellar space, an area previously directly unstudied by any manmade object. The Voyager's accomplishment is record-breaking, considering not only the length of its journey, but the quality of important information the probe has gathered along the way.
After the Voyager 1's launch on September 5th, 1977, the spacecraft was used to gather information about the solar system that was previously unidentified. The spacecraft was designed with the purpose of taking a "grand tour" of outer space. Spending most of its journey around Jupiter and Saturn, the spacecraft was successful in creating the "family portrait" of the solar system. Taken in 1990, the craft captured photographs used to create the mosaic of our solar system. These were the last photos taken by the Voyager before it embarked on the remaining part of its journey into the edges of our solar system:
Voyager's design allows for a variety of information to be gathered. From pictures, to measuring solar winds and cosmic waves, Voyager is able to gather information about our solar system and now beyond. However, over time the spacecraft's energy source has been declining, and specific components are beginning to shut down. In 2007, the first of the systems shut down and the other systems will continue to work until 2025 when the spacecraft is expected to run out of power.
John Grunsfeld, the associate administrator for NASA in Washington, said the “Voyager has boldly gone where no probe has gone before, marking one of the most significant technological achievements in the annals of the history of science, and adding a new chapter in human scientific dreams and endeavors.”
Scientists at NASA are eagerly waiting the incoming data the Voyager will receive during its new journey into interstellar space. NASA believes the spacecraft has been traveling outside our solar system for about a year, but it is still close enough to be affected by our sun. Once the spacecraft exits the sun’s reach, scientists will be gathering the first data regarding deep interstellar space. Until then, the Voyager will remain one of the most influential spacecrafts in NASA history.